There are hundreds of ways to go about picking your office pool brackets. You can go with your gut. You can go with the cooler mascot. You can go with whatever school has a higher seed and toss-ups based on a coin flip. Or you can be a giant nerd like myself and pour over a giant spreadsheet full of numbers trying to predict the future better than Miss Cleo. All of these strategies have merit and when it comes down to it, it’s still the future and we don’t know what will happen.
What I’m going to do today and tomorrow (in the morning so you can use this knowledge for yourself) is post my opinions and feelings and you can do with that what you will. (My suggestion would be to do the opposite of whatever I think.)
First a little primer from ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie for a quick rundown of making your picks with the help of numbers.
Round of 64ish:
Let’s start with the 1 seeds: The #1 seeds have lost the opening game 0% of the time So here’s an easy 4 points. Actually, I’ll go even further: Advance the 1 seeds to the Elite 8 (History shows that #1s make it this far 85% of the time). If you pick against a 1 seed here, you are probably giving away points. The tough call would be Syracuse with a missing Fab Melo, and a lower Pythagorean Expectation then Wisconsin.
Now the 2 v 15 games: A 15 has done the upset 4 times in the past 27 years, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. There hasn’t been a 2 over 15 upset in 11 years now, so I guess we’re ripe for the picking. But even if the 15 did win, they never make the Sweet 16, so hedge your bets, and take the point (or loss of a point that no one else is gonna get anyway) and stick with the #2.
3 v 14: The #3 has won 85% of time in the past so now is the time to look into possible first round upsets, but looking at the field this year, I don’t see anything upsetting.
4v13: The lower seed wins 78% of the time here. So picking the right upset at this level might be nice. If I had to choose one, I’d take a look at New Mexico State over Indiana. Upset here would probably come from a high scoring team doing well, and NM St. are the highest of the 13 seeds with an average of 78.5 points per game.
5v12: Time to stop giving the low seeds a free pass. Lower seeded teams only take 67% of these games historically. This year I’d think about upsets from VCU, who did well last year, or Cal (if they win tonight) based on their Pythagorean expectation.
6v11: Again 67% to the lower seeded team historically and that is against the trend of recent years. Possible upset here would be Texas over Cincinnati based again off Pythagorean but also coaching experience.
7v10: 60% for the 7 seed. Possible upsets here would be Purdue over St. Mary’s or Virginia over Florida.
8v9: Pretty much 50-50 — Actually the 9 seed wins this 53% of the time. Since this is pretty much a toss-up anyway, go with your favorite method to pick these. Mine (as you may have noticed) is Pythagorean expectation. With this the only “upset” (can a 9 over an 8 be an upset?) being Alabama over Creighton. Don’t worry too much about these games, because the winner is just going to lose to the 1 seed in the second round.
That should cover you for about 32 games. I hope to go over the remaining 32 games and to finish this all up tomorrow morning. Until Then you can check out this list of reasons to root for each team in the tourney. Also check out Wired for their method of going against the crowd to gain points that no one else in your pool will.