Now that the 2013 NCAA tournament has concluded in thrilling fashion, let’s review how our algorithmic NCAA tournament betting picks and computer-optimized brackets did this year.
In short, our betting picks were profitable and once again, our brackets did very well. Our bracket for small pools finished among the top 5-7% of the nation, our upset bonus brackets did phenomenally well in early round games, and many BracketBrains subscribers won prizes in their pools, including customer reports of first place finishes in contests as big as 500 people.
Finally, one of our larger pool brackets finished in the 99.99th percentile on ESPN.
After a very successful inaugural year, TeamRankings’ Stat Geek Idol competition is back!
Last March, Jeff Haley captured the crown with his analysis of play-by-play data showing the impacts of pace, drawing rave reviews for his work from SGI final round judges including Mark Cuban, Dean Oliver, Ken Pomeroy, and Jeff Ma.
Who’s going to impress the judges and bring home the greenbacks this year? If you’re an armchair stat geek, this is your big chance to get your work noticed by some of the biggest names in basketball analytics and media!
Since last year’s contest was so successful, we’re doubling the prize for the 2013 winner to two grand. We were inspired by last year’s response and want to raise the bar even higher.
- Mark Cuban, Owner, Dallas Mavericks – Shark #1, Shark Tank
- Dean Oliver, Director of Production Analytics, ESPN – Author, Basketball On Paper
- Ken Pomeroy, Owner, KenPom.com – College basketball team consultant
- Jeff Ma, Founder, TenXer & Citizen Sports – Former member, MIT Blackjack team
- Ben Alamar, Professor, Menlo College – Author, Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers
- Luke Winn, Senior college basketball writer, Sports Illustrated
- John Gasaway, College basketball analyst, ESPN Insider
- John Stasko, Professor & Associate Chair, Georgia Tech – Faculty, CS 4801 SA, Sports Analytics
- Tobias Moskowitz, Professor, University of Chicago – Author, Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won
- Jeff Haley, Founder, Hoop-Math.com - Stat Geek Idol champion 2012
So, which teams should you pick for an early round upsets this year in your 2013 NCAA bracket?
If you’re in a traditional bracket pool with no upset bonus in the scoring system, the first answer is probably “not many.” People tend to agonize over the Round of 64 games because there are so many of them, but for the majority of bracket pickers, those games are worth next to nothing in terms of points.
Especially if you’re in a smaller bracket pool, the risk of picking lots of upsets simply doesn’t justify the reward. In most cases, you’re better off taking measured risks on later round games, where a game that swings your way can really differentiate your bracket from the pack.
One of the most interesting parts of college basketball is how it often pits teams of drastically different styles against one another. This seems to stand out the most every March, when teams that seldom face each other square off in the NCAA tournament. While contrasting styles in isolation should be a primary determinant of how you make your NCAA tournament bracket picks, they do make the games more fun.
Creighton vs. Cincinnati
Creighton vs. Cincinnati will pit the powerful Bluejay offense against Mick Cronin’s tough D. This season Creighton has scored 1.16 points per possession, while the Bearcat defense is only surrendering 0.89 points per trip. When we look even deeper, this game really shapes up to be a battle of strength vs. strength.
In the East Region of 2013′s NCAA Bracket, Indiana stands out as a clear favorite.
2013 has been a topsy turvy year in NCAA Basketball, but Indiana has been near the top throughout. The Hoosiers’ play, thanks to high shooting percentages on offense and low shooting percentages on defense, has been strong all year. They rank #3 in our predictive ratings, a bit lower than most; our consensus adjusted rating places them second in the country behind Louisville.
In an unremarkable 2013 NCAA Tournament West Region, Gonzaga looks like the top team.
The Zags, because of a relatively weak WCC schedule, are tougher to evaluate than many teams: they have by far the nation’s best record, but have played few games against top competition. However, the consensus is fairly clear: they’re #2 in our predictive power ratings, and rank between #4 and #6 in the other major ratings (our new ratings, Pomeroy, BPI, and Sagarin). Las Vegas gives them about a 30% chance to win the region — better than Ohio State and New Mexico, but not by a lot. Their implied odds to win it all also vary widely — placing them anywhere between #3 and #7 in the country.
The NCAA seeding process is a complicated one, and it always creates situations where teams have a difficult or easy path to the tournament’s second weekend. Here are several teams whose fates look to be strongly affected by the layout of the tournament, and have unusually easy or unusually difficult paths to the second weekend of play. It will give you another thing to think about when making your NCAA tournament picks this week.
Teams with an unusually difficult path to the Sweet 16
1. Gonzaga (#1 seed, West Region)
If Pittsburgh beats Wichita State in the first round, it will set up a likely match-up with the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second round. According to our predictive rankings, Pitt is the eighth best team in Division I this season. No other eight or nine seed is ranked nearly this high, which means that Mark Few’s squad could face an unusually early challenge in this year’s tournament. It comes as no surprise that Gonzaga has the lowest odds to make the Sweet 16 of any #1 seed in our 2013 NCAA bracket odds.
With Sunday’s announcement of the 2013 NCAA Tournament pairings, one of the natural things that we like to do is compare the seed position of each team with our predictive rankings. Doing this comparison, we identified the most over-seeded and under-seeded teams to help you make your NCAA tournament picks.
1. Butler (#6 Seed; #53 TR predictive rank)
The Bulldogs are the 46th best team in the NCAA tournament based on our predictive rankings system. Their position in the NCAA tournament (and their actual position on the NCAA’s S-curve) is #22. This means Brad Stevens’ team is 24 spots higher than they would be if the seeds were assigned purely based on our predictive rankings. The NCAA committee looks at the Butler resume, which has big wins against top teams like Indiana and Gonzaga, while our lower ranking is effected by the fact that the Bulldogs only outscored their opponents by 5.5 points per game.
The NCAA tournament selection committee goes through painstaking detail to make sure that teams from the same conference do not play each other until late in the 2013 NCAA tournament. For instance, the first three teams from each conference must be in three separate regions, and two teams from the same conference cannot play each other in the first three rounds unless nine teams from that conference make the field.
This post is the second in a four-part series on key strategies for winning bracket contests.
On Thursday, we discussed why bracket pool size should be a major determinant of your picking strategy if your goal is to win your bracket contest this year. Today in Part 2 of our bracket picking strategy series, we’ll cover the critical importance of projecting how your opponents will pick their brackets.