Category: March Madness


A Hybrid Solution to Seeding the NCAA Tournament

March 20th, 2019 — 8:00am

I’m on record many times as being in favor of a purely objective selection criteria. However, when it comes to seeding, things are a bit trickier. While selection is a purely binary process–you’re either in or you’re out–all teams are intertwined when it comes to seeding.

I’ve previously offered up an alternative where teams are selected by their resume, but seeded by their true strength. While this balances the bracket correctly, it completely abandons the reward-based nature of the tournament, which we’d like to preserve as much as possible.

There is no system to both perfectly reward teams for their body of work and preserve the integrity of the bracket so that higher-seeded teams are never given a tougher draw than a team seeded lower than them. Every time you move a team to help with bracket integrity for one team, you by definition hurt another.

Despite this impediment to perfection, we can do better than either a purely reward-based or a purely quality-based seeding system. It necessarily involves trade offs, and you have to balance maintaining the reward for some teams against hurting/helping others.

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

The Case for Objective Selection

March 17th, 2019 — 8:00am

Every year around this time, the 350+ Division I basketball teams wrap up their regular seasons and–save for the 32 conference champions who receive automatic bids–leave their fates in the hands of the aptly-named Selection Committee. Later today, this committee will finish pouring over each team to select the 36 at-large teams to complete the field of 68. It’s a supposedly painstaking process that takes many days and long nights for the committee members to arrive at their selections.

It’s also completely unnecessary. Actually, worse than that. It’s detrimental to the process. I’m here to tell you why.

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

Conference Tournament Predictions 2019 – All Tournaments

March 13th, 2019 — 5:33pm

All conference tournament predictions are now in. You can follow along with this year’s contest by using this google spreadsheet link: predictions. TeamRankings currently holds a commanding lead and is trying to win their 3rd Conference Tournament Predictions Contest. Final results to be posted once all the games are completed.

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Conference Tournament Predictions 2019 – Early Tournaments

March 8th, 2019 — 8:37pm

I’m once again tracking conference tournament predictions between my own system, KenPom, and TeamRankings. I discuss the scoring system in this post, but essentially for each team result that actually happens (e.g. Loyola wins the MVC, Indiana loses in the 2nd Round, etc.) we grade the predictions based on how likely they thought that result was to happen, punishing predictions more severely the less likely a system predicted it to happen.

You can follow along with this year’s contest by using this google spreadsheet link: predictions. In the very early going, TeamRankings is off to an early lead, followed by my Predict the Madness system, and then Ken Pomeroy’s in 3rd.

I will try to post another update early next week once all of the conference tournament brackets have been set. Until then, enjoy the early conference tournament action!

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Conference Tournaments 2018 – Final Results

March 8th, 2019 — 3:58pm

Before I get to this year’s predictions, I realized I never posted last year’s final results, but my predictions did pull out the victory, narrowly holding off a strong TeamRankings run. KenPom finished 3rd.

That gives two victories apiece for myself and TR, with KenPom having one victory. Full results (PTM are my own predictions):

  • 2013: (1) TR, (2) KP, (3) PTM
  • 2014: no contest
  • 2015: (1) TR, (2) KP, (3) PTM
  • 2016: (1) PTM, (2) TR, (3) KP
  • 2017: (1) KP, (2) TR, (3) KP
  • 2018: (1) PTM, (2) TR, (3) KP

It’s been an especially impressive run for TeamRankings, who has 2 first-place finishes and 3 second-place finishes, while never finishing in last.

The full results (Google spreadsheet) can be viewed by clicking here.

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Conference Tournament Predictions 2018 – Early Results

March 5th, 2018 — 10:32pm

As I’ve done for most of the last few seasons (I missed 2014 for some reason), I’m tracking conference tournament predictions between Ken Pomeroy, Team Rankings, and myself. In the previous 4 years I’ve tracked, Team Rankings has 2 victories to 1 each for both KenPom and my own predictions.

Now that all the conference tournament fields have been set, here are the full predictions for all 3 systems this year (with results through Sunday): predictions. I discuss the scoring system in this post, but essentially for each team result that actually happens (e.g. Loyola wins the MVC, Indiana loses in the 2nd Round, etc.) we grade the predictions based on how likely they thought that result was to happen, punishing predictions more severely the less likely a system predicted it to happen.

In the early going, it’s my Predict the Madness system that is off to a strong start, but there are still a lot of games to be played as the majority of conferences will kick off tournament play this week. I’ll be back early next week with the final results.

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Conference Tournament Predictions 2017 – Late Tournaments

March 8th, 2017 — 7:01pm

Last week, I posted the predictions for the 13 early tournaments. Now the other 19 (that’s right, the Ivy League has joined the party) tournaments are set and most are underway, so I’ve updated the Google spreadsheet with all the predictions. KenPom is off to the early lead and looking for his first ever victory in the prestigious Conference Tournament Predictions contest that he doesn’t know he’s in. TeamRankings, the two-time champion, is in 2nd place, while my predictions (the reigning champs!) are trailing the pack.

Cinderella Index – Early Tournaments

In last week’s post, I introduced the Cinderella Index as a way to try and quantify which teams to root for during chamionship week. Let’s see where we stand with those Cinderellas: Continue reading »

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Conference Tournament Predictions 2017 – Early Tournaments and the Cinderella Index

March 4th, 2017 — 7:44am

Thirteen of the conference tournaments kick off early and are all under way. With the lone exception of the America East tournament, they will conclude early as well beginning with the Ohio Valley on Saturday and ending with the Patriot league title on Wednesday. The rest of the tournaments kick off next Monday or after and conclude either next Saturday or on Selection Sunday itself including the first ever Ivy League tournament.

As I’ve done in years past (2013, 2015, 2016), I’ll be tracking my conference tournament predictions against those of both KenPom and Team Rankings. The predictions for the early tournaments are up here on Google drive and I’ll add the remaining tournaments in once their brackets are set.

But while we wait and see how the projections will fare, I want to explain what my rooting interests will be during Championship Week.

Introducing the Cinderella Index

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Grading the Selection Committee’s In-Season Preview

February 11th, 2017 — 11:03pm

Today, the NCAA Selection Committee put out their first ever in-season preview, releasing the current top 16 if the season were to end today. Let’s see how they did.

First, here is their s-curve alongside my own Achievement Rankings, ESPN’s Strength of Record rankings, and ESPN’s current bracketology seeds.

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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 538.com. 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.

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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.

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