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March 15, 2012

Science Picks Brackets, Part 2

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA — Tags: , , , — Willis @ 8:01 am

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…

Champion

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.

March 14, 2012

Bracketology: Science Picks Brackets

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA — Tags: , , , — Willis @ 9:49 am

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.

October 5, 2009

[Business Day One] Heads With Roll At FSU

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , — Serpico @ 8:18 am

College football fans oscillate between “everything’s wonderful” and “fire the staff” on a weekly basis. It’s worse than any other kind of sports fickleness. Even if fans believe that their team is in a rebuilding year and they admit to themselves it’ll be a rough season before the first kickoff, they’ll still lose their minds and start demanding blood once the L’s roll in.

The most recent example of this is taking place at Florida Stae, who just took a loss at my beloved Alumni Stadium at the hands of 25-year old Freshman Dave Shinskie and the rest of the Boston College Eagles.

Stories are floating around in both the local and national press (go on, look it up) about fans and trustees demanding that longtime head coach Bobby Bowden retire after 33 years. They’ve been a couple of notches below the expected elite level for most of the 2000s, and the rumblings have been growing ever-louder. But they reach a head with every lost, with diehards becomming irrational and demanding everything from an immediate press conference announcing a resignation to Bowden being escorted off of campus by security.

Watching a coach on the hot seat provides a creepy kind of pleasure, especially when you know that the end will be soon upon him. It’s like witnessing the destruction of an empire after a long decline. You can’t help but study it with the rapt attention of a history major (well, an interested history major).

I, for one, believe it’s time for him to go. But I’ve felt that way for years. Offensive Coordinator Jimbo Fisher has been the head coach in waiting for a while. Bowden doesn’t call offense or defense, doesn’t recruit, and serves more as a grandfatherly media spokesman than any sort of on-the-sidelines leader.

That said, you have to let the man finish the season, and do it with dignity. It’s bad for a program when the coach turns over (no matter how ineffective the coach is), but it’s even worse for the coach to turn over midseason or amidst public turmoil. FSU fans should be rooting for a new coach, that’s for certain, but they should be rooting for Bowden loudly until then.

March 23, 2009

[Business Day One] I Need A New Drug

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , — Serpico @ 9:30 am

So Boston College Basketball got bounced in the first round of the NCAA’s, squandering a 7 seed to those surfing long-hairs out of Southern California.  About an hour later, the BC Hockey team coughed one up to those Phish-listening  train riders out of Boston University.  Crappy night for me.

The BC spring football game is about a month away, and I wish our baseball team the best but can’t possibly sit through collegiate baseball more than once every six years.  As such, I need a new college sport to follow.  It’d be preferable if it was Boston College related.  So here’s a mission.  If you’re a current BC student, start an intramural league of some sort and apply sabermetrics to it.  Then, e-mail them to me and let me analyze them and right snarky stuff about it.

Go, time’s a wastin’!

March 16, 2009

[Business Day One] Unexpected Generosity

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 10:34 am

After a week of conference championship games, Selection Sunday swept into our lives and delivered the NCAA Tournament field to us.  Like kids on Christmas Eve, we waited to see what came down the chimney.  We speculated, audited in our heads how our years have gone.  Were we naughty or nice?  What’s Santa’s track record been in the past?  Does Daddy not having a job affect my odds of getting that pimp Lego Castle?  You talk yourself into believing in the most beautiful possibilities.  You think and hope and pray so hard that they become real.  Such is human nature.

Accordingly, life is filled with disappointments.  There are always more stories about vacations falling apart or an expensive restaurant being overrated or, say, your team getting ignored for the Big Dance than stories of unexpectedly perfect situations.  We as sports fans accept this.  We know, deep down, that our sunny predictions born of baseball’s spring training or football’s draft won’t be fulfilled.  But despite this, every so often the Gods of Sport give your team a gift.  Perhaps an entirely unexpected gift, a wholly undeserved gift.  But a gift.  And a beautiful one.

The Arizona Cardinals got one this past year – making it to the SuperBowl with a one dimensional offense and a terrible defense.  The Kansas City Chiefs got one in the form of a discount Matt Cassel.  And my beloved Boston College Eagles just picked one up in the form of a 7 seed in the tournament.  Granted, I think BC’s unexpectedly generous seeding isn’t on the same level of “holy flying God are you lucky” as the Buzzsaw’s run into the playoffs or The Last Cassel’s new home in KC, but it hit me close to home.  So I’m going to talk about it.

BC beat Duke at home and UNC on the road.  We won the first game of the ACC tourney and played the Blue Devils to the final seconds in the next one.  We had the resume for a 9 or 10 seed, considering we dropped ugly games to St. Louis (road) and Harvard (home, in front of me).  The season proved that Boston College has the legs to either run into the Final Four or drop in the first round – in other words, they’re the perfect 9 or 10.  Just high enough not to be a Cinderalla, but just low enough to fly under the radar until the Sweet Sixteen.

Then the 7 seed happened.  I learned about it on a basement computer in the green room of my comedy theatre.  “Wow,” I said aloud.  “I think that’s a little generous.”  That right there is a rarity in sports.  We’re so used to disappointment, so used to our teams being disrespected, that when something so fun and unexpected happens, we have no idea what to think.  How often in the history of your own sports fandom have you had a “we don’t deserve such good news” moment?  You’ll probably think about thirty different “we got hosed” moments trying to come up with one.

So between now and Friday’s game against USC, I’m going to do my best to appreciate the sports equivalent of finding a $20 bill on the street.  Go Eagles, YOUR tournament 7 seed!

March 10, 2009

[Business Day One] 2-1

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , — Serpico @ 11:48 am

My girlfriend and I have been to a Boston College basketball game three times this season, and we (and the team) have compiled a 2-1 record. We saw wins against Providence and Georgia Tech, and a shameful loss against Harvard.

I realized, reflecting upon this the other day, that I am lucky to have witnessed multiple wins, but even more so to be in a relationship with an honest to goodness sports fan.

I firmly believe you shouldn’t date someone just because they like the sports that you do, but if it just so happens that they’re big into football or baseball or anything else, it is a tremendous bonus. It’s like finding a gold bar in the truck of a car at a police auction – you expected something good and you got something awesome. If you’re dating someone who is a sports fan, buy them tickets to things. Tickets are like flowers. Unexpected and lovely. If you’re not, it’s ok. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of friends who’d like that extra Bruins ticket.

February 23, 2009

[Business Day One] Marching Towards March

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 10:46 am

“BC didn’t look too good this weekend,” said a BU-alum co-worker.

“Yeah,” I replied, “but we’ll make the Dance.”

Boston College beat Duke at home and UNC on the road this season.  A couple of thrilling games against top competition.  As part of any NCAA Tournament portfolio, they’d be those “well, now we have to let you in” type games that guarantee an 8 seed.  But in this baffling season in which the ACC beats up on each other more than usual, nothing is certain.  After beating UNC, my beloved Eagles returned home and got clobbered by Harvard, a team with slightly more athletic talent than my high school’s.  I was there at Conte Forum when it went down.  If you dig up the ESPN highlights (I won’t, since it hurts), you’ll be able to see me in the background with my head in my hands and my girlfriend being a good soldier and trying to make me feel better.

The road to March Madness reminds me a lot of the road to the Oscars.  Way too many people using way too much specious reasoning to determine the future.  “Mickey Rourke won some support when he thanked his dogs during the Golden Globes, so that puts him in a great position.”  “Texas Tech is only at .500, but with their strength of schedule being what it is, maybe it’s enough to get some looks.”  Pundits of all types are weigh in, using the same information in different ways.  Interesting things happen when “news”casters need to fill two hours on one subject.

Like the Oscars, when the Tournament actually happens it is cause for a massive party, drinking games and friendly wagers.  But darn if the trip there is agony.  I’m not here to say that going to daily RPI trackers or Perez Hilton for gossip is wrong, but I am here to say that anticipation, when too bloated, invariably leads to letdown.  People love setting themselves up for disappointment.  I’m sure that some of you who braved the seven hours worth of the Academy Awards spent a lot of it wondering why your Lead Pipe Locks didn’t win their respective awards after you spent days in advance researching their roles and figuring out who actually is in the Academy.  I just trust you don’t make the same mistake with the NCAAs.

January 5, 2009

[Business Day One] The Heights – A New Drama Series

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 12:37 pm

Did I expect Boston College to beat North Carolina in a game of basketball at the Dean Dome this weekend? No, I did not. Did I expect Boston College to prepare to fire its head football coach after he decided to interview for the New York Jets position? No. Yet oddly, both this happened.

College sport is a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, it’s everything. While I’m not as wrapped up in the exploits of my alma mater as some, I’m more involved than most. As such, this odd combination of events this weekend has affected my sleep last night and my appetite today. How can I be hungry when I need to keep checking my message boards for breaking news?

Whether you love schoolboy hoops or not, or have ever been to a college football tailgate, you’ve all be acquainted with the dizzying experience of being hit with both wonderful and horrible news at the same time. It throws you for a loop in a way that you can’t really explain. The bad news doesn’t seem as awful because the good news tempered it slightly. Yet, unfortunately, that good news isn’t as sweet as you could’ve expected. Both events are brought into their weird hazy middle ground, that you get lost in instead of gettinga good night’s sleep. I’ve always found the idea of willingly becomming a sports fan funny – you’re signing up for far more heartbreak than happiness. Whenever I forget about that fact, fate reminds me.

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