Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bracket Tips from the Analytics Department

A big thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out yesterday, your generosity is very much appreciated.

Today we borrow from last years bracket tips article to offer some bracket advice for this season.  Here is some guidance for your 2016 NCAA Tournament:

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:

Temple & Villanova, rounds 1&2 (Brooklyn)
Yale, rounds 1&2 (Providence)
Oklahoma, Texas & Texas A&M, rounds 1&2 (Oklahoma City)
North Carolina, rounds 1&2 (Raleigh)
Purdue, rounds 3&4 (Chicago)

Look for Balance

In the last two seasons, 19 of the 24 Elite 8 teams were in the top 50 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  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)

Kentucky (4)
Iowa St (4)
Duke (4)
Indiana (5)
Baylor (5)
Notre Dame (6)
Dayton (7)
Oregon St (7)

So Yale/Baylor...

Winning Streaks Lead to Winning It All

In the past decade, 5 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), a 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:

North Carolina
Michigan St
Seton Hall

Defense Wins Championships

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:

Michigan St
West Virginia
North Carolina
Seton Hall

One and Done, but not Done Done

In this season we've seen a lack of impact from "1 and done" freshman similar to those that have propelled Kentucky, Duke and others in years past.  This provides an opportunity to fall back on the old standby that experience brings wins come tourney time.  While mid majors such as Tulsa, Arkansas Little Rock and Chattanooga lead the field in experience, Iowa St, Miami, and Oklahoma are in the top 50 nationally as well.  Congrats to those programs for developing talent at the major conference level, and maybe passing out a degree or two as well.

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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