March Madness Pet Peeves

March 16th, 2016 — 12:13am

I love almost everything about March Madness. Almost everything.

So, despite this being the greatest week of the year–from Selection Sunday to filling out brackets to the wall-to-wall television viewing of the 48 tournament games on the weekend–I offer up a few of the things I do NOT like about the first week of March Madness.

Pet Peeve #1: Calling out the committee for “mis-seeding” teams

You’ll see this all around the internet this week, such as here on While sometimes it can be warranted, what I’m talking about are the times people say a team is over- or underseeded compared to their true strength. For instance, FiveThirtyEight called Wichita State underseeded as an 11-seed, saying the committee made an error. I’ve railed on this before, but again: THIS IS NOT AN ERROR ON THE COMMITTEE’S PART. They are grading resumes, not talent! This is Wichita State’s fault for losing 8 games against a sub-par schedule.

I liken this to a teacher–they grade tests, not intelligence. If the smartest kid in the class gets 80% of the questions correct, nobody says she should get an A+ because her IQ is 135! That’s insane. Even if you disagree with this premise that the committee should be concerned with resumes over talent (which is a separate pet peeve of mine!), that is what they are doing! Why would we say they are doing a bad job by using criteria completely different from what they are using. This makes absolutely no sense and makes me literally scream at my computer screen every time I read somebody say it. Stop doing this, people.

Pet Peeve #2: Touting ridiculous trends or trivia as bracket-picking advice

Rece Davis on a recent ESPN Bracketology show warned that the last time a team with a 25+ PPG scorer made the Final Four was–I don’t even remember exactly, but a long time ago. The point was that you should beware of picking Oklahoma to reach Houston this year because Buddy Hield averages over 25 points a game. As if he averaged just 24.9, that would be somehow better.

You’ll hear inane advice like this all over the airwaves this week. I know, I know, there’s a lot of airtime to fill up and not a lot to say. But that doesn’t make advice like this any less annoying. There’s lots of forms of this. Never pick all four #1 seeds to reach the Final Four. Pick one 12-seed to beat a 5. Tom Izzo teams always outperform in March. Yada yada yada. It’s all nonsense, I just wish there could be one bracket show without it.

Pet Peeve #3: Putting the 6/11 game above the 3/14 game in the bracket

I have no idea when this became a thing, but I have even less of an idea as to why it did. It is now prevalent across nearly every bracket I see, and it burns me to my very core.

A bracket is a beautiful, splendid, pristine piece of art. The secret to it’s visually- and intellectually-pleasing perfection lies in its symmetry and patterns. So why–in the name of all that is holy, WHY–would people blatantly ruin this?!

Let’s walk through this. Here’s what a typical bracket looks like:

Bracket rant

Let’s break down this bracket into four groups of four teams each. Within each four-team group, we can look at where the lowest seed resides. In the 1/16/8/9 section, the 1-seed is on top, and in the 2/15/7/10 section, the top seed–the #2–is on bottom. So far, so good. But then in both of the other sections, the top seed–#3 and #4–are both on the bottom! That means 3 of the 4 sections have the top seed in the bottom game. THIS MAKES NO F***ING SENSE!!!

If we split the bracket in half and re-seed, we should get mirror images of each other. The top half would go 1/8, 4/5, 3/6, 2/7. That means the bottom half SHOULD get reseeded as 2/7, 3/6, 4/5, 1/8…but instead we get the cringe-inducing 3/6, 2/7, 4/5, 1/8. I don’t know who I’m more mad at–the person who started this insane, illogical, claw-my-eyes-out trend…or every person thereafter who perpetuated this high crime on the sacred bracket. Please, I beg you all, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world: STOP IT. Stop it now.


Now that all of that is out of my system, I can enjoy everything else I love about this time of the year. Happy March Madness everyone.

Comment » | College Basketball, March Madness

Conference Tournament Predictions 2016 – Final Results

March 14th, 2016 — 12:28am

Today is Selection Sunday, representing the start of the NCAA Tournament, but it also marks the end of the conference tournament season.

Earlier, I recapped how my projection system fared in 2015 with conference tournament predictions against Ken Pomeroy and Team Rankings predictions. Unfortunately for myself, the results were the same as when I tracked these in 2013–a 3rd place finish behind 2nd place KenPom and 1st place Team Rankings.

This year, things were finally different and my projections scored a resounding victory over the other two competitors, while Team Rankings edged out KenPom for 2nd place honors. The full results are in a google spreadsheet here. My projections had a strong showing, “winning” over half of the 31 conference tournaments–in 16 conferences I had the lowest cumulative score by conference, with 9 2nd place finishes and 6 3rd places. Team Rankings actually had more last place finishes than KenPom (13-12) but had twice as many 1st places (10-5) which was enough to secure the 2nd place overall finish for TR.

Comment » | College Basketball, Conference Tournament predictions, predictive, team evaluation

Conference Tournament Predictions 2015 – Final Results

March 3rd, 2016 — 11:52pm

Three years ago, I compiled predictions for the conference tournaments from three sources–my own, Ken Pomeroy, and Team Rankings. When the dust settled, Team Rankings had narrowly edged out KenPom for the title as I lagged behind a distant third.

I didn’t get around to it in 2014 (though perhaps I can find time to go back and gather predictions from that season), but last year I did track things. Unfortunately, I’m just now getting around to posting it. The results were the same, though this time, Team Rankings won comfortably over KenPom and my own predictions. I’ve posted the full spreadsheet on Google docs, which you can find here. I discuss the scoring system in this post. Since we are posting advancement odds, we don’t have predictions for each individual matchup. Instead, predictions are essentially a rolled up version of all possible matchups. To score them, I use the log of each team’s predictions to get exactly to the round they did. For instance, my predictions for Montana in the Big Sky tournament were 81%/61%/43%, meaning an 81% chance of winning the 1st round and advancing to the semifinals, 61% of reaching the final, and 43% of winning the title. Another way of looking at it is that Montana had a 19% chance to lose in the 1st round (that’s 100% minus the 81% chance to win in the 1st round), a 20% chance of winning one game and then losing in the semis, an 18% chance of winning twice and losing in the final, and, of course, the 43% chance to win it all. Those are the probabilities that are scored.

This year is under way. If I get around to it, I may post the predictions for each of the three systems, but either way, I’ll be back in a couple weeks with the final results. Good luck to Ken Pomeroy and Team Rankings; I hope to be able to at least climb out of the cellar this year.

Comment » | College Basketball, Conference Tournament predictions, March Madness, predictive, review, team evaluation

The Silliness of Bracketology

February 23rd, 2016 — 1:05am

We’re less than one month from Selection Sunday, which means the burgeoning field often called Bracketology is in full swing. Bracketology has taken on some broader meanings over the years, but it most often refers to predicting the selection and seeding of teams in the NCAA Tournament bracket. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi (aka “Joey Brackets”) has made a name and a living on his projections and there are now so many bracketologists that there is a site called The Bracket Matrix that collects all of them (dozens and dozens), displays them in a matrix, and grades them when the final bracket is released.

As a March Madness lover, I am a fan of most things involving the tournament and endorse almost anything that brings interest and discussion to the event. While predicting the NCAA Tournament field certainly falls into that category–and I myself have dabbled in my version of it–there are some aspects of the current state of Bracketology that range from misguided to downright silly.

Continue reading »

Comment » | College Basketball, descriptive, March Madness, review

College Football Playoff – Final Achievement Rankings

December 7th, 2014 — 11:09am

We’re less than an hour from the CFB Playoff selection, so I figured I’d release a final version of my system. For an explanation of the system and caveats with it, see this post.

We can set the baseline team wherever we want, so I’ll show 2 different sets of rankings–vs the #10 team and vs the #25 team.

Achievement Rankings – #10 team baseline

Rk Team ExpW ExpL W L Score Score/G
1 Alabama 9.00 4.00 12 1 3.00 0.231
2 Florida St 11.49 1.51 13 0 1.51 0.116
3 Mississippi St 8.81 3.19 10 2 1.19 0.099
4 Baylor 10.04 1.96 11 1 0.96 0.080
5 TCU 10.08 1.92 11 1 0.92 0.077
6 Oregon 11.34 1.66 12 1 0.66 0.051
7 Auburn 7.65 4.35 8 4 0.35 0.029
8 Mississippi 8.66 3.34 9 3 0.34 0.028
9 Ohio St 11.78 1.22 12 1 0.22 0.017
10 Missouri 10.09 2.91 10 3 -0.09 -0.007

Achievement Rankings – #25 team baseline

Rk Team ExpW ExpL W L Score Score/G
1 Alabama 6.62 6.38 12 1 5.38 0.414
2 Florida St 9.04 3.96 13 0 3.96 0.305
3 Mississippi St 7.16 4.84 10 2 2.84 0.236
4 Oregon 9.06 3.94 12 1 2.94 0.226
5 Auburn 5.30 6.70 8 4 2.70 0.225
6 TCU 8.44 3.56 11 1 2.56 0.214
7 Baylor 8.47 3.53 11 1 2.53 0.211
8 Mississippi 6.52 5.48 9 3 2.48 0.206
9 Missouri 7.92 5.09 10 3 2.09 0.160
10 Ohio St 9.92 3.08 12 1 2.08 0.160

Obviously Mississippi State is going to be the big surprise here, but Sagarin’s ratings which I’m using, are astronomically high on the SEC West (see here). This could be too high or it could be right (I think we’d all agree the SEC West was an extremely strong division), but in the end it makes their schedule over a loss tougher than the other top contenders. Adjusting the SEC downward a bit, would give you either Baylor and TCU (no Oregon) in the #10-team version or Oregon and TCU in the #25-team version. The issue with Oregon is that the high baseline we set combined with Sagarin’s view of the Pac-12–lots of good but few great teams–makes Oregon’s schedule look relatively easy for a top 10 or even top 25 team.

I think there are good reasons for moving Mississippi State down, but this is a good reminder that teams shouldn’t be automatically excluded simply because they have more losses than another team. An extremely tough schedule can be enough to account for the extra loss.

Also, remember that conference championships, head-to-head, margin of victory, and the “eye test” are not included here, but those are things the committee could consider. Most of those things would not work in Mississippi State’s favor.

It will be interesting to see what the committee does today, both in selection and seeding. And then we all get to enjoy college football’s first playoff on the field, which promises to be exciting no matter who is selected.


Comment » | CFB Achievement Rankings, CFB Playoff, College Football, Football, team evaluation

College Football Playoff – Achievement Rankings

November 16th, 2014 — 1:46pm

Decided to dust off the ol’ blog for the new College Football Playoff system. I’m simply going to apply my Achievement S-Curve [see here] to college football to see who should be selected for the inaugural CFB Playoff this year.

Quick summary of what the Achievement Rankings are doing: determine the most deserving teams based on on-field accomplishments. From each team’s perspective all that matters is whether they won or lost, and how difficult the game was (opponent strength, home/away, etc.). For opponent strength, however, we are free to use a more predictive rating, or true strength. Simple example: the Arizona Cardinals at 8-1 against a tough schedule would come out on top of a most deserving ranking in the NFL and if they season ended today, they certainly deserve the #1 seed. However, the Broncos or Packers or maybe even Seahawks may be the best team and would come out on top of a predictive system (say, Inpredictable‘s, which has DEN #1, GB #2, NE #3, SEA #4…and ARZ #14).

There are two choices to make to utilize my system: you need a rating system to determine the difficulty of the game (mostly the strength of each opponent, but also home-field advantage, etc.) and you need to choose a baseline team to compare against. I’m going to use Sagarin‘s Predictor rating to determine opponent strength and for now, I’ll use the equivalent of the #10 team in the country as our baseline team since we are trying to determine the top 4 teams. So for each team I’ll find what record we’d expect the #10 team in the nation (think Ohio State or Oklahoma) to have had they played their schedule, and we’ll use Sagarin to determine that.

Let’s take Florida State as an example. Here’s their schedule with how often both the #10 team and the #25 team would be expected to win each game:

Loc Opponent #10 Team #25 Team
N- Oklahoma St 98% 83%
vs Citadel 100% 100%
vs Clemson 73% 58%
@ NC State 94% 79%
vs Wake Forest 100% 100%
@ Syracuse 93% 77%
vs Notre Dame 73% 58%
@ Louisville 58% 43%
vs Virginia 98% 82%
@ Miami FL 60% 45%

On average, we’d expect the #10 team to win about 8.5 games against this schedule, and the #25 team would win 7.25 on average. Since Florida State is 10-0, their score is +1.5 or +2.75, depending on the baseline team you choose.

Achievement Rankings

Here are the rankings with a #10 team as the baseline:

Rk Team ExpW ExpL W L Score Score/G
1 Alabama 6.49 3.51 9 1 2.51 0.251
2 Mississippi St 7.43 2.57 9 1 1.57 0.157
3 Florida St 8.46 1.54 10 0 1.54 0.154
4 Oregon 7.71 2.29 9 1 1.29 0.129
5 TCU 7.93 2.07 9 1 1.07 0.107
6 Baylor 7.14 1.86 8 1 0.86 0.095
7 Auburn 6.19 3.81 7 3 0.81 0.081
8 Mississippi 7.30 2.70 8 2 0.70 0.070
9 Georgia 7.32 2.68 8 2 0.68 0.068
10 UCLA 7.45 2.55 8 2 0.55 0.055
11 Ohio St 8.57 1.43 9 1 0.43 0.043
12 Arizona St 7.91 2.09 8 2 0.09 0.009

And if we lower the baseline to the #25 team, we get:

Rk Team ExpW ExpL W L Score Score/G
1 Alabama 5.28 4.72 9 1 3.72 0.372
2 Florida St 7.25 2.75 10 0 2.75 0.275
3 Oregon 6.49 3.51 9 1 2.51 0.251
4 Mississippi St 6.52 3.48 9 1 2.48 0.248
5 Auburn 4.82 5.18 7 3 2.18 0.218
6 UCLA 5.93 4.07 8 2 2.07 0.207
7 TCU 6.98 3.02 9 1 2.02 0.202
8 Georgia 6.11 3.89 8 2 1.89 0.189
9 Baylor 6.38 2.62 8 1 1.62 0.180
10 Mississippi 6.23 3.77 8 2 1.77 0.177
11 Ohio St 7.49 2.51 9 1 1.51 0.151
12 Arizona St 6.69 3.31 8 2 1.31 0.131

I prefer the higher baseline, which gives more credit to top wins and less to middle tier wins. In either system, the top 4 are Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Mississippi State, albeit in different orders. TCU, Baylor, and Auburn are next in line in the #10 version. UCLA climbs up to #6 in the #25 version, as they have a bunch of middle-tier wins (Virginia, Memphis, Texas, Washington, etc.). It’s up to you what type of resume you want to reward.

A couple quick notes:

  • College football teams play so few “connecting” games (i.e. non-conference games) that team strength ratings (like Sagarin) are very sensitive to these and conferences as a whole can move up or down the ratings based on just a handful of out of conference matchups. The SEC is certainly very strong this year, but it’s possible they as a conference are overrated due to this phenomenon.
  • This system does not incorporate certain things that others may thing they should. Some of these I’m okay with: conference championships, for instance, or recent performance. Others, I am strongly against: head-to-head and especially the dreaded “eye” test.

In any case, I’m excited to see how the whole thing plays out. College Football finally has a Playoff.

Comment » | CFB Achievement Rankings, CFB Playoff, College Football

NCAA Tournament Predictions – 2013

March 21st, 2013 — 2:29pm

With the tournament under way, I wanted to post my NCAA Tournament predictions. Things didn’t go so well for me with my Conference Tournament predictions, so hopefully the big dance will provide some sort of redemption.

I really hate the traditional bracket with normal scoring rules, as the best bracket ends up just being pretty much chalk and, well, what’s the fun in that? However, I’m guessing most people want to see my “bracket” so I’ll provide it. It’s really unexciting: only two double-digit seeds are favored by my system in the first round–11-seeds St. Mary’s and Minnesota–and there are only a couple more mild upsets along the way.

2013 March Madness Bracket

There’s a lot of information in predictive systems like mine, but this bracket shows virtually none of it. A better way to display all of the information is with advancement odds, like I did for conference tournaments. Here is the likelihood of each team advancing to each round of the tournament.

RgSdTeamRtgRkRd of 32Sweet 16Elite 8Final 4Champ GameChamp
42Ohio State96.1691.668.446.824.012.85.8
13Michigan State93.61475.244.722.
32Miami (FL)92.31990.957.235.310.23.51.2
14Saint Louis92.22077.045.413.
111Saint Mary's (CA)92.61670.036.917.
18Colorado State92.81555.514.
43New Mexico91.12482.038.514.
25Virginia Commonwealth91.32272.
15Oklahoma State90.32956.628.
47Notre Dame90.62659.
27San Diego State90.62765.331.
35Nevada-Las Vegas90.03069.328.
28North Carolina87.63655.
38North Carolina State87.13856.
49Wichita State89.93128.
410Iowa State87.03940.910.
44Kansas State85.64357.514.
413La Salle81.55942.
113New Mexico State78.17323.
213South Dakota State68.51007.
216Western Kentucky51.81556.
115Albany (NY)52.31536.
215Florida Gulf Coast48.51697.
214Northwestern State56.11403.
316James Madison48.31711.
116North Carolina A&T21.82730.

The table is fully searchable, sortable, and filterable. I added in the region and seed so you can sort and look at best/worst teams by seed and region.

For now, it’s time to finally enjoy the games.


Comment » | College Basketball, March Madness, predictive, team evaluation

Winners and Losers from Selection Sunday

March 19th, 2013 — 12:20am

Despite what many television analysts might say, seeding does have an enormous impact on a team’s chances to advance in the tournament. Every seed line you move up increases your chances of going further in the tournament. But the seeds don’t always play out that way, and so when the bracket is released we can see exactly what matchups each team will face on their path through the tournament.


Indiana has a clear path to the Final Four

The Hoosiers head the easiest of the four regions. Their 2nd round opponent will be the easiest of the 8/9 matchups (NC State or Temple). In the Sweet 16, Syracuse could provide a stiff test but each other region has a 4 or 5 seed as good or better than the Orange. And the bottom half of Indiana’s bracket is by far the easiest of any region: Miami is the worst 2-seed, Marquette is the worst 3-seed (along with New Mexico) and none of the other teams provide much of a threat. Nobody is ever a shoo-in for the Final Four, there’s too many games against too many good teams, but Indiana definitely increased their odds on Sunday with the path they were dealt.

Also benefiting from this easy bracket is 6-seed Butler, who has a relatively easy path to the Elite 8. Could they shock the world…again…and make it to the Final Four? Continue reading »

Comment » | College Basketball, March Madness, predictive, team evaluation

The Achievement S-Curve – 2013 Final

March 18th, 2013 — 9:51pm

Selection Sunday 2013 is in the books. Time to release the final Achievement S-Curve of 2013 and see how it compares to the actual bracket.

The 2013 Achievement S-Curve (click twice to embiggen):

Achievement S-Curve 130318 Continue reading »

2 comments » | College Basketball, descriptive, March Madness, predictive, review, team evaluation

Conference Tournament Predictions – Final Results

March 18th, 2013 — 5:13pm

Last time, I laid out the method by which I would grade the conference tournament predictions.

The tournaments are over so it’s time to present the results…and it’s not pretty for my predictions.

TeamRankings: -317.53

KenPom: -317.87

Predict The Madness (me): -321.26

Yeah, the latter half of the conference tournaments did not go so well for my system. It’s not the biggest sample, but around 300 games gives us some indication. Perhaps next year I’ll grade all regular season predictions.

And now, it’s time for the real tournament. Enjoy the madness.

Comment » | College Basketball, Conference Tournament predictions, predictive, team evaluation

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