Bracket Tips from the Analytics Department v3


Rolling back to the Dragons Speak days, this will be the third edition of “Bracket Tips from the Analytics Department”.  The prior editions both featured the eventual tourney winner on their short list so this year we shoot to be three for three.


Location Matters

Studies have shown over and over again that referees calls are influenced by fan behavior.  This is a fact of life.  In arenas where there is a strong rooting interest, there will be an advantage at play for the well supported team.  In the NCAA tournament, those fans will also root for a live underdog in the other game at the same arena, hoping their team will get an easier draw.  Here are some teams with large followings who will see some type of home court draw:

Florida, rounds 2&3 (Orlando)
South Carolina, round 2 (Greenville, SC)
Duke, round 2 (Greenville, SC)
Florida State, rounds 2&3 (Orlando)
UNC, rounds 2&3 (Greenville, SC)
Kansas, rounds 4&5 (Kansas City)
Middle Tennessee, rounds 4&5 (Memphis)
Saint Mary’s, rounds 4&5 (San Jose)
Arizona, rounds 5&6 (Glendale)

Look for Balance

In the last three seasons, 21 of the 24 Elite 8 teams were in the top 50 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  Last year Notre Dame was the only outsider.  Here are a list of contenders that people are picking this year, but will not end the year in the top 50 in both categories.  Don’t expect a deep run from:

Team (Seed)
UCLA (3)
Minnesota (5)
Maryland (6)
Michigan (7)
South Carolina (7)
Arkansas (8)
Miami (8)
Michigan St (9)
Seton Hall (9)
VCU (10)

(So if you didn’t like Middle Tennessee State before in that 5/12 game in Milwaukee…  it might be time to hop on that bandwagon)

Winning Streaks Lead to Winning It All

In the past decade, 6 of the 10 NCAA Tournament winners were “major conference” teams that also won their conference tournament.  Since only 7 of the teams in the field were major conference winners (6 before the American Athletic Conference came around), an over 50% hit rate from those 7 of 64 teams is extremely impressive.  The sample is small, but it seems to point to the idea that no one “needs a loss” to go into the tournament hungry.  Here are your major conference tourney winners this year:

Iowa State

* These teams were “unbalanced” in the section above, leaving the other 5 teams as better selections to be likely to move deep into (or win) the tourney

Defense Wins Championships

As mentioned in the prior blog post, in the past 6 years, every national champion has been in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency and done that against top 20 offensive strength of schedules.  Here are the teams that could do that this year:

South Carolina
West Virginia

If we cross reference these lists, only five teams avoid the unbalanced category and hit multiple others.  And while the last three are only on it due to virtue of where the committee is allowing them to play their games, never underrate the power of home court in the tourney.  If Arizona can squeeze out of what appears to be one of the softer brackets, they may quickly become a favorite to take the whole thing.  Here are the five teams that this exercise rolls out as the favorites:


One Last Note

I’ve never won a bracket pool in my life.  The greatness of March is that it supersedes number, every game is one small sample size after the next, and we will cheer like hell for Cinderella the entire way. So after you’re done with this and carefully made your picks…  rip it up and just flip a coin for each game.

March is here.  Enjoy the holiday.


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