Posts Tagged ‘Bracket’

Before you begin reading this article, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I’m not telling you how to fill out the perfect bracket; that’s impossible (insert cliche about the astronomically small odds of this ever happening). Rather, I’m giving you statistically sound, pragmatic advice on how to win your bracket pool between you and your friends (and the spoils that come along with it). If you follow these foolproof steps, you should finish at (or at the very least near) the top:

Step 1: Advance all 1 and 2 seeds to the Sweet 16.

Okay, I know, this is super chalky and people may rag on you for making this move. Furthermore, the odds are heavily against all eight 1 and 2 seeds advancing to the Sweet 16. However, picking which 1 or 2 seed is going to get upset is a fool’s gambit. You put yourself at risk of losing easy points that your opponents will gain. You’re better off taking a couple gambles in other early round games, and just playing it close to the vest here.

To further drive home my point, consider this – in the last eight tournaments, 48 of the 64 teams (75%) on the 1 and 2 seed line advanced to the Sweet 16. If you can essentially lock in 6 correct teams in your predicted Sweet 16, you should do it.

Step 2: Advance all 3 and 4 seeds to the second round.

The same chalkiness mentioned in step 1 definitely applies here as well, but the same logic applies as well. The difference here is that a lower seed upset over a 3 or 4 in the second round is much more likely  in comparison to a similar 1 or 2 upset. Thus, auto-advancing the 3 and 4 seeds should only apply to the first round. It’s fun bragging about being the one person who accurately picked the crazy 14 over 3 upset, but you know what’s more fun? Bragging about winning your bracket pool.

In a similar fashion to step 1, I really want to drive home this point as well. In the last eight tournaments, 52 of the 64 teams (81%) on the 3 and 4 seed line advanced to the second round.

Step 3: Use the following statistical data to pick the 7/10 and 8/9 games.

In years past, I focused my statistical analysis of college basketball on simply trying to build a predictive model to attempt to reveal who was going to win the entire NCAA tournament. This year, I wanted to go more in-depth and try to find predictive variables and isolate patterns based on recent historic results in order to attempt to predict these first round coin flip games. Doing this will allow the individual team match-ups to come into play, rather than simply projecting which teams have the best chance to advance the furthest, regardless of opponent.

I used historic tournament results from 7/10 and 8/9 games that took play between 2010 to 2016. These games were batched together in order to increase the predictive power of the model. Upon completion of my model, the following variables demonstrated predictive power in these match-ups:

  • Strength of Schedule
  • Pace
  • Offensive Efficiency
  • Defensive Efficiency
  • Efficiency Margin
  • Turnover %
  • Wins
  • Offensive Rebound %
  • Effective 3-Point Rate


After inputting the 2016-2017 statistics for all of the 7 through 10 seeds in this year’s tournament, my model yielded the following results:



Step 4: Use the following statistical data to pick the 5/12 and 6/11 games.

In a similar vein to the 7/10 and 8/9 games, I wanted to use historic tournament results to attempt to find the most likely upset specials in the 5/12 and 6/11 games. Predicting these games will use the same variables listed above, but with different multiplicative factors attached to each variable. The predictive accuracy in 5/12 and 6/11 games is more volatile than their coin-flip counterparts, but that is to be expected, as the games themselves tend to be more volatile.

After inputting the 2016-2017 statistics for all of the 5, 6, 11, and 12 seeds in this year’s tournament, my model yielded the following results:



Step 5: Your final four should consist of some combination of the following teams.

As I mentioned above, I previously developed a predictive model to attempt to project who has the best chance of advancing far into the tournament, regardless of match-up. I refined the past model to further optimize the predictive results, then normalized the projections for each region to create a probability of reaching the final four for every team in the tournament. Below are charts that feature every eligible team (all non-double digit seeds not excluded by the steps above) separated by region:

(I recommend selecting a team with at least a 10% chance of advancing to the Final Four)

Final Four


Step 6: Your national champion should be one of the following teams.

The same predictive model from step 5 applies here in step 6. The analysis of all the factors that are most predictive when projecting a national champion is the area where I have committed the most time and performed the most research. This is not coincidence, as this is the most valuable prediction when it comes to winning your bracket pool. Below is a chart that features every eligible team (not excluded by the steps above) in the tournament that has at least a 0.5% chance of winning the tournament:

National Champion




1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week

Chaos is king in college basketball this season. Filling out your bracket in any given season is a crapshoot, and in that sense, this season will be no different. However, with the two big changes to the game this season, (the 30-second shot clock [LOVE] and the freedom of movement rules [MEH]), we’re seeing significantly more mayhem than in past years. As with any major change, it takes time to iron out the kinks and stabilize what we expect as the norm. Thus, I anticipate that this pandemonium will continue through tournament time. Last night alone provides an example of some of the shocking upsets we’ve seen so far this season. A hot and cold Texas team won on the road against a West Virginia team who handily took care of Kansas one week prior, while the Spartans of Michigan State suffered their second straight one-point defeat, this one coming at home at the hands of a borderline-NIT Nebraska team.


3 Games to Watch this Week

i. Gonzaga @ St. Mary’s (Thursday @ 11 pm EST, TV – ESPNU)
I know, I know, this game doesn’t start until 11 PM EST and you have to work tomorrow… cry me a river; it really should be of the utmost quality. This game between the Zags and the Gaels is for the outright lead in the West Coast Conference. Here is my pretend shocked face:


These two teams are always the class of this conference, and this year is no different. Gonzaga isn’t quite the same team without Przemek Karnowski to come off the bench and be extra, super tall and do extra, super tall guy things. That being said, they still have a POY candidate in Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, and Lithuanian sensation and double-double machine Domantas Sabonis. The Gaels counter with Emmett Naar, another Australian pipeliner that has what the analysts love to call “in-the-gym” type shooting range.

ii. Oklahoma @ Baylor (Saturday @ 12:00 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Based on a relatively favorable start to their conference schedule, the Baylor Bears sit alone atop the Big 12 conference. If they wish to remain there, they’ll have to protect their home court and knock off the temporarily top-ranked Sooners. I anticipate Oklahoma will come out pretty fired up for this game, coming off an embarrassing defensive effort in their loss to Iowa State on Monday night. Scott Drew’s Baylor squad is very well-rounded, with four players averaging double-figure scoring per game. Of these four, I look for the Bears to channel their success through Rico Gathers, who will easily be the most physically-imposing player on the court.

iii. Maryland @ Michigan State (Saturday @ 6:30 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
After starting the season 16-0, the Spartans have stumbled their way to a 3-4 start in conference play. Of the four losses, none was more frustrating for Spartan fans than the home loss to Nebraska last night. This loss marks the second time in three years Tim Miles has led the Cornhuskers to victory over Tom Izzo and his squad in East Lansing. Michigan State will have the perfect opportunity to gain a rebound victory, as College Gameday joins Maryland in coming to town for this heavyweight match-up. Maryland, led by the underachieving Melo Trimble and the constantly improving Diamond Stone, will look for a victory to keep pace with Indiana and Iowa in the Big 10 race.


1 Bold Prediction for the Week

Ben Bentil will put up 20+ points and 8+ boards, but all will be for naught in the face of a Villanova victory. The Wildcats of Villanova play host to the Friars of Providence at the Wells Fargo Center at 1 PM on Sunday. Providence has had an intriguing last four games, going 2-2 in a stretch where every game has been decided by single digits. While Kris Dunn’s name is the one that grabs headlines because of his NBA potential, Ben Bentil has quietly developed into a Robin role on the team. With Jay Wright sure to key in on stopping Dunn, it seems that Bentil will have a ripe opportunity to put up some double-double type numbers against Nova. In the end, however, I do believe the Wildcats will add another solid victory to their resume and maintain a zero in the loss column in Big East conference play.

Final Score:
Villanova – 76
Providence – 70