Tips for picking a winning bracket from Badger Bracketology

These tips for winning your March Madness bracket pool is reblogged from Punk Rock Operations Research.

1 Ignore RPI, use math based rankings instead to take strength of schedule into account.

Ken Massey has a rankings clearinghouse here: http://www.masseyratings.com/cb/compare.htm. I’m happy to say that I’m the only women contributor to this list :) My rankings are posted there and can be found here.

https://twitter.com/masseyratings/status/839626182169604096

2 Pay attention to the seeds

The seeds matter because they determine a team’s path to the Final Four. Some seeds generate more upsets than others, such as 7-10 seeds and 5-12 seeds. Historically, 6-11 seeds go the longest before facing a 1 or 2 seed. Teams with an 8 seed face a tough Round-of-64 opponent and have to face a 1 seed next (sorry Badgers).

However, there are plenty of upsets. The Final Four has been composed of all 1 seeds only once. See BracketOdds at Illinois for more information on how the seeds have fared.

Having said that, the committee doesn’t always get it right. There are Some teams like SMU, Wichita State, and Xavier are underseeded and are poised to upset. Also, Villanova is the overall #1 seed and has a 15% chance of winning the entire tournament, which is low, meaning that there isn’t a strong favorite this year.

3 Don’t pick Kansas to win it all

Be strategic. The point is NOT to maximize your points, it’s to get more points than your opponents. I’ve been getting in the habit of picking my Final Four first and filling in the rest later.  You can pick the eventual winner (say, Villanova) and still lose your pool if everyone else picks Villanova. FiveThirtyEight estimates that Villanova has a 15% chance of winning the tournament, meaning that another team is probably going to win.

One way to be strategic is to pick an undervalued top team to win the tournament. For example, last year Kansas was selected as the overall winner in 27% of brackets on ESPN and in 62% of Final Fours) despite having an overall 19% chance of winning (538). On the other hand, UNC was selected as the overall winner in 8% of brackets (with a 15% win probability). Getting UNC right last year helped vault past those who picked Kansas.

4 It’s random

The way brackets are scored means that randomness rules. It’s easy to forget that a good process does not guarantee the best outcome in any give year. A good process yields better outcomes on average but your mileage may vary any given year (at least that what I tell myself when I don’t win my pool!)

Small pools are better if you have a good process. The more people in a pool, the higher chance that someone will accidentally make a good bracket with a bad process. It’s like stormtroopers shooting at a target. They’re terrible, but if they take enough shots they’ll hit the target once. 

For more reading:

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings on Selection Sunday, March 12, 2017

Here are my Selection Sunday rankings.  These are final after all games have been finished. I posted the full ranking under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab. I’m happy to say that Wisconsin has re-entered the top 25!

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. Kentucky
  4. SMU
  5. Wichita St
  6. Arizona
  7. UCLA
  8. Duke
  9. Cincinnati
  10. Oregon
  11. MTSU
  12. North Carolina
  13. St Marys CA
  14. West Virginia
  15. Kansas
  16. Nevada
  17. Purdue
  18. Vermont
  19. UNC Wilmington
  20. Michigan
  21. Florida St
  22. VA Commonwealth
  23. Notre Dame
  24. Bucknell
  25. Wisconsin

Here are the final B1G rankings:

17 Purdue
20 Michigan
25 Wisconsin
41 Northwestern
43 Minnesota
54 Maryland
78 Indiana
87 Michigan St
121 Iowa
130 Illinois
141 Ohio St
176 Penn St
187 Rutgers
242 Nebraska

 

 

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings, March 6, 2017

Here are this week’s rankings.  The full ranking is under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab.

1 Gonzaga
2 Villanova
3 UCLA
4 Wichita St
5 Kansas
6 Kentucky
7 SMU
8 Cincinnati
9 Purdue
10 North Carolina
11 Oregon
12 Arizona
13 St Marys CA
14 West Virginia
15 Florida
16 MTSU
17 Baylor
18 Florida St
19 Louisville
20 Monmouth NJ
21 Duke
22 UNC Wilmington
23 VA Commonwealth
24 Butler
25 Vermont

Here are the B1G teams, ranked.

9 Purdue
30 Wisconsin
37 Maryland
39 Minnesota
43 Michigan
45 Northwestern
85 Indiana
93 Iowa
94 Michigan St
106 Illinois
114 Ohio St
182 Penn St
202 Rutgers
230 Nebraska

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings, February 27, 2017

Here are this week’s rankings.  The full ranking is under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab.

1 Gonzaga
2 Villanova
3 UCLA
4 Kansas
5 North Carolina
6 Oregon
7 Wichita St
8 Kentucky
9 Arizona
10 St Marys CA
11 SMU
12 Cincinnati
13 Purdue
14 West Virginia
15 Florida
16 Butler
17 Florida St
18 Louisville
19 MTSU
20 Duke
21 Monmouth NJ
22 Baylor
23 Vermont
24 VA Commonwealth
25 UNC Wilmington
26 Notre Dame
27 Wisconsin

Here are the B1G teams, ranked.

13 Purdue
27 Wisconsin
34 Minnesota
41 Maryland
44 Northwestern
46 Michigan
80 Michigan St
88 Indiana
101 Illinois
109 Iowa
112 Ohio St
164 Penn St
203 Rutgers
216 Nebraska

 

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings, February 20, 2017

Here are this week’s rankings.  The full ranking is under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab.

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. UCLA
  4. Kansas
  5. SMU
  6. Arizona
  7. North Carolina
  8. Purdue
  9. Oregon
  10. Kentucky
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Wichita St
  13. St Marys CA
  14. Florida
  15. Duke
  16. West Virginia
  17. MTSU
  18. Louisville
  19. Baylor
  20. Wisconsin
  21. VA Commonwealth
  22. Butler
  23. Florida St
  24. Notre Dame
  25. Creighton

Here are the B1G teams, ranked.

8 Purdue
20 Wisconsin
29 Maryland
35 Northwestern
40 Minnesota
53 Michigan
86 Indiana
101 Michigan St
106 Ohio St
120 Illinois
133 Iowa
152 Penn St
184 Rutgers
196 Nebraska

 

 

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings, February 13, 2017

Here are this week’s rankings.  The full ranking is under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab.

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. UCLA
  4. Kansas
  5. SMU
  6. Arizona
  7. Florida St
  8. Cincinnati
  9. Baylor
  10. Kentucky
  11. North Carolina
  12. Purdue
  13. Wichita St
  14. West Virginia
  15. Oregon
  16. St Marys CA
  17. Florida
  18. Duke
  19. MTSU
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Louisville
  22. Vermont
  23. Creighton
  24. Virginia
  25. VA Commonwealth

Here are the B1G teams, ranked.

12 Purdue
20 Wisconsin
31 Maryland
32 Northwestern
43 Minnesota
54 Michigan
69 Indiana
82 Ohio St
97 Michigan St
100 Iowa
112 Illinois
115 Penn St
167 Rutgers
230 Nebraska

 

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings, February 6, 2017

Here are this week’s rankings.  The full ranking is under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab.

1 Gonzaga
2 Villanova
3 North Carolina
4 UCLA
5 Purdue
6 Florida St
7 Kansas
8 Cincinnati
9 SMU
10 Arizona
11 St Marys CA
12 Oregon
13 Kentucky
14 Wichita St
15 Baylor
16 Wisconsin
17 Louisville
18 West Virginia
19 Florida
20 Duke
21 Creighton
22 USC
23 Butler
24 MTSU
25 Virginia

Here are the B1G teams, ranked.

5 Purdue
16 Wisconsin
27 Maryland
33 Northwestern
47 Minnesota
59 Indiana
68 Michigan
81 Ohio St
85 Iowa
98 Michigan St
116 Illinois
141 Penn St
144 Rutgers
200 Nebraska

 

NCAA men’s Division I basketball rankings, January 30, 2017

Here are this week’s rankings.  The full ranking is under the “NCAA BB rankings” tab.

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. UCLA
  4. North Carolina
  5. Kansas
  6. Arizona
  7. Baylor
  8. Kentucky
  9. Louisville
  10. Cincinnati
  11. St Marys CA
  12. Purdue
  13. Butler
  14. West Virginia
  15. Florida St
  16. Oregon
  17. Creighton
  18. SMU
  19. Wichita St
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Northwestern
  22. Duke
  23. Notre Dame
  24. MTSU
  25. Florida

Here are the B1G teams, ranked.

 

12 Purdue
20 Wisconsin
21 Northwestern
30 Maryland
43 Minnesota
52 Michigan
55 Indiana
81 Ohio St
84 Michigan St
100 Illinois
112 Iowa
132 Penn St
143 Rutgers
181 Nebraska