Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some last March Madness NCAA Basketball pool advice.

The NCAA Basketball March Madness pool that I play in encourages upset picks by weighting the points by the seed in the tournament. You get the seed for the win. If #13 Davidson beats #4 Maryland you get 13 points, otherwise you get 4 points. Each round is multiplied by a factor, first round is 1, second is 2, third is 4 and so on to 32 points multiplied by the seed of the overall winner. It is ingenious because being safe doesn't translate into as many points as picking upsets, and that's the key to winning the whole thing.

Last year I did some extensive upset probability analysis of upsets in the round of 64 and round of 32. I also separately analyzed the final four and the winner. This year I am spending my time on my picks so I will just use the analysis from last year, which does neglect the 2006 results, but that is a small effect over the 21 years of data already in the analysis.

My advice:
  • Pick the #1 team in the first round. They have never lost, and you are not going to be the lucky one who finally picks it when they do.
  • For almost the same reason as above, pick the #2 team to win in the first round also.


  • Pick upsets in the first round for the other matchups. #8 vs. #9 seeds are worse than toss ups, more than half of the time the #9 seed wins. Even #12 beats #5 one in three times.
  • Pick more upsets in the second round. Almost half the time, 12 beat 4, 5 beat 4, 6 beat 3, 10 beat 2. A quarter of the time 8 beat 1, 7 beat 2, and 11 beat 4. Some of those matchups are rare, so take the statistics with a grain of salt.


  • The worst seed to win the tournament was #8 and this happened only once. The worst seed to make it to the Final Four was ranked #11, which also only happened once. Since these are highly improbably events your bracket should avoid them.

  • Get some more information about the individual teams, but don't rely too heavily on it (see upsets above). I am using the Sagarin ratings for some extra information on where teams were ranked over the year and as a substitute for my utter lack of knowledge about college basketball. This gives me some way to guess where the upsets that are expected above will happen. My excitement is in the math more than the sport.

Finally, on any given day any team can beat any other team. The key to winning is picking which upsets will happen and that takes some knowledge of the teams. Good luck.

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1 comment:

The Virtual Ranger said...

Oh, stats! Yummy! I thought you;d forgotten how...
:)