Category: Basketball

Science Picks Brackets, Part 2


This is a continuation from yesterday’s post.

The Second Round

In this round we have 4 different groups of games. Again I’ll start with the easier ones.

1/8/9/16 – The 1 seed wins here 87% of the time. A 16 seed has never actually made it to this game so the remaining 13% is split between the couple of times that an 8 or 9 pulled off the upset. Only way I’d pick an upset here is if I were in a big pool and wanted to go with a high risk strategy.

2/7/10/15 – While this isn’t as cut and dry as the 1 seed games, the 2 seed moves on 65% of the time. If you’re looking for a 2 seed to fall, look at experience. This year Missouri is a 2 seed but they got a pretty new coach and they could go against Florida with Billy Donovan who’s taken his squad to the Elite 8 4 times. Other than that, go with #2.

4/5/12/13 – If for some reason you have a 12v13 match here, pick the 12 seed as they have a 8-1 record but if you want to dig deeper, pick the team with more experience in the tournament. If you have a 12/13 going against a 4/5 It’s not as cut and dry as the seed value may imply as, historically, this upset is relatively common. The most likely match-up is, of course, the 4v5. History doesn’t tell you too much with 4’s having a slight edge winning 52% of the time. I’d look at points per game and Pythagorean expectation here… and that makes me look at maybe New Mexico over Louisville, but it would be hard to pick against Pitino and his experience.

3/6/11/14 – If it’s 3v11 or 6v14 you should probably go with the 3/6 as they have won 72% of these past match-ups. The 3v6 game is where you need to spend some time. If I had to pick an upset here, I’d go with Cincinnati. Maybe you want to go against the crowd? Pick UNLV to upset Baylor, hell, pick them to take down the Blue Devils. No one likes Duke so it’s a feel good pick and if it happens, no one else in your pool made that pick.

On to the Sweet 16!

1 Seed Bracket – on average, three out of 4 top seeds will make it past this round. Remember that when you decide you want to take down a 1 seed. Which one of the 4 looks ripe for the picking this year? Syracuse. They’d most likely take on a very good Wisconsin team and they are down one of their better players. Then again, you could play the odds and just advance the 1 seed if you wanted to be a bit more low risk. 2 Seed Bracket – In general the 2 seed wins here (70%) but if it’s 2v3 then it’s more reasonable (62%). If you’re looking for a team other than the 2 seed to come out of this bracket, I’d say maybe Baylor (or maybe even UNLV) over Duke or, for even more madness, pick Florida over Marquette – It could happen.

Success in NCAA by Seed Chart

Elite 8!

Look at the blue lines in the above chart. You should probably keep your Final Four selections to that realm of possibility. Look at what 1 seeds look weakest (Syracuse) or look at the better 2/3/4 seeds (Ohio State, Kansas, Baylor, Wisconsin) and make you selections from them.

Chart: Cinderella Plot 2001-2011
The darker the color the larger the seed number. The lighter the graph the further the 1,2,3,4 seeds have gone.

Final Four!

Seeding can now be tossed out the window for the birds because that doesn’t matter anymore. Here’s where you pick the better teams for some other reason. Maybe you want to go by AP rankings? Kentucky (champion pick) over Missouri (because you have Missouri (3) over Michigan State (5) in the Elite 8) and Syracuse over North Carolina. Perhaps you want to go with Pythagorean expectation, that would be Kentucky (champion pick) over Michigan State and Ohio State over Kansas. Whatever you go with make sure that you have a road for a good…


Look at that chart above. 4 of the last 11 years it was a team that was not a 1 seed. Want to go back another 11 years? The 1 seeds won 68% of the time. That’s 2 out of every 3 years. So you want to win your pool? You should probably stick with a 1 seed. Perhaps go with North Carolina like President Obama:

I hope that this helps you, because it helped me make my decisions even though I went against the math a few times.

Bracketology: Science Picks Brackets

No Comments

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.

2012 NCAA Mens Bracket
Another suggestion is to print this out and then throw darts.

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.

Geekapollooza AKA Sports Analytics Conf.

No Comments

This past weekend at MIT was what Mark Cuban calls “Geekapollooza,” but what everyone else calls the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.  It’s nice to see that the professional nerds on sports have their own conference. The description from their site states:

The conference goal is to provide a forum for industry professionals (executives and leading researchers) and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry. MIT Sloan is dedicated to fostering growth in this arena, and the conference enriches opportunities for learning about the sports business world. The conference is open to anyone interested in sports.

Though the real description is that a bunch of (usually highly educated) nerds come together with the people in sports management and discuss their idea and breakthroughs in statistics and analytics. The ESPN Numbers Never Lie team made a little video that explains the conference well:

As far as I can tell from what I saw/read/heard about coming out of SSAC these are the important stories:

  • Every sport was covered. Of course there were panels for baseball, basketball, and football, but there were panels for soccer, golf, tennis, advertising, and even hockey.
  • Bill James is a god among nerds. He was a special guest on panels, podcasts, and ESPN interviews. I think everyone is trying to make up for the Baseball Abstracts days.
  • There was a panel dedicated to sports gambling, because it turns out that degenerates who gamble on sports have paved and are paving new roads in predictive sports analytics.
  • TicketMaster started talking about their new PriceMaster stab at dynamic ticket pricing. Probably means more expensive tickets, but maybe there’ll be a last-minute cheap-o (like myself) option.
  • EPSN was all over this thing: They has sponsorship ads in place. They had people on half the panels. They had their own panels. They were even broadcasting live.

To end this, I’ll leave you with a video of Kevin McHale, who, though not as hating as Joe Morgan, has never been a fan of all the advanced statistical analysis until (as you’ll see at about 2/3s into the video the video) he realizes that his GM (Daryl Morey) is a big fan of this stuff. So much so that he’s a co-chair at Sloan.

[Midweek Wha] Et Tu Wildkat

1 Comment

A basketball player was charged with domestic violence this week. That, in and of itself, is sadly not newsworthy. What does get my attention is that he is a Harlem Globetrotter. Wildkat Edgerson, whose profile on the official website begins with “Wildkat Edgerson is the Globetrotters’ gentle giant.”

[Business Day One] Those Summer Weeks

No Comments

In the sports world, a week is a very long time. Last Monday, I was chatting about the National League All Stars and wondering how bad they’d be slaughtered at Yankee Stadium.  A week later, I find myself with memories of a grueling fifteen inning duel and three straight Bomber wins in the Bronx since.  Jason Taylor is now a Washington Redskin (or maybe a Washington Hotskin, am I right ladies?).  Padraig Harrington got some golf hardware with Tiger away.  And the Celtics finally signed some of their free agents.

The summer, particularly around the All Star Break, always seemed to be a quiet time in years past. It hasn’t been the case this year, at least by my estimation. Whether I’m just paying more attention or there are just more positive (or at least, not overtly negative) storylines, I cannot say. But the summer has been a busy time and I wager it will continue to be until the fall throws us all back into entire weekends of football.

I’ve always found it interesting that in our regular lives, we look forward to the summer, but in our sports fandom lives, we spend the summer looking forward to other things. Baseball’s impossibly long regular season plods on, suggesting that one day there will be a postseason to cheer through. Football training camps are just starting up, and the prognosticators begin their yearly ritual of prognostication. Basketball owners are offering up franchise-changing (or crippling) contracts to gear up for next year. College teams are sending coaches all over the country to recruit massive offensive linemen from towns you’ve never heard of. Despite all of this, precious little in actual “sporting” gets done. So while you’re sitting on the beach you’ve been anticipating sitting on for six months, you’re really just anticipating what will be going on with your teams six months from now.

Such is the nature of the American sports fan. We’re a nation of speculators and calculators. We spew unending strings of trash about our best friends’ keeper strategy in fantasy hockey, despite the fact that there no ice in the Boston Garden yet. I think many of us love the time between seasons just as much as the seasons themselves. It’s a time when Donovan McNabb is still healthy, your team is undefeated and every trade management has made was a good one.

So here we sit during these summer weeks, enjoying the warm weather but always quietly looking forward to the cold breezes of the seasons to come.

[Business Day One] Matters of Importance

1 Comment

There’s a lot going on, and since it is Monday, I must explain it all.  Let’s feast on knowledge.


-The Gods of Sport heeded my prayers, and now a 17th banner will hang from the rafters of the New Boston Garden.  Kevin Garnett is no longer a choke artist, Ray Allen’s ankles are more durable than some thought, Paul Pierce displayed tremendous truthiness, and Rajon Rondo was a one-man fantasy team.  I am a big fan of people (or teams) that realize their potential.  Not that I’m a fan of pundits getting proven right or anything, but I derive a lot of satisfaction when a group that is considered great to fulfill their greatness.  The Celtics, after reeling off 66 wins during the regular season, did everything asked of them in the Finals, and the results were clear.


-Jason Giambi’s moustache is disturbing me more than I thought facial hair could.Eep.  I think it’s because the man is always sweaty.  There’s just something about sweat beading up and rolling down a moustache that makes me think of 70s pornography.  And I don’t care to think about such things when I’m watching baseball.  I find myself rooting against Giambi hitting a homerun, because then I’d be subjected to a close-up of his damp, hirsute face and he trots around the bases.  Truly, it is something that haunts my dreams.


-One of the joys of living in a big city is being able to follow the Euro 2008 based solely off of the facial expressions of various ethnic groups.


-When you’re arrested that often, people can call you whatever they want.


-The New York Giants, as they seem to every year, are embroiled in offseason controversy.  There are contract disputes, a jailed running back and a retired sack leader.  It feels like I’ve spent every year for the past decade lamenting at how dysfuntional the team I grew up with has been.  But every so often, I get a nice story about a 3,000 mile charity walk.  That keeps me holding on.