What you should know before filling out your
Welcome to the madness of March. Whether you’re a professional fan like me who spends several hours a day watching games, reading articles, listening to podcasts and browsing stats; or just hope you don’t finish last in your office pool; Here are a few ideas to keep in mind as you fill out your bracket.
Anyone looking to fill out a research-based bracket shares the same idea: contact Ken Pomeroy. In 2004, the former meteorologist-turned-blogger popularized the use of advanced analytics and efficiency metrics to assess a team’s overall performance throughout the season. Using its rankings on kenpom.com and its predictive metrics to support bracket decisions has become a mainstream move over the past 15 years. It’s a great idea, it really is, but it’s also an idea that everyone who studies college basketball has already thought about. If you share the same benefit as other people in your pool, I’m not sure that still counts as a benefit, so consider using alternative and lesser-known predictive efficiency rankings.
Use the same statistical analysis strategy so you can rely on actual data but don’t necessarily reach the same conclusions. Try Bart Torvik’s leaderboard or Evan Miyakawa’s leaderboard. All three variants, Pomeroy, Torvik and Miyakawa are offered free of charge. I love and appreciate all three sites, but personally I like the Torvik rankings because it’s easy to sort data by date, and Miyakawa’s biggest addition to the extended stats is the removal of stats that appear in late-game situations during a blowout . So if a team leads by 40 points with two minutes to go, they drain their bench and their opponent immediately goes on a 10-0 run…he removes that data so they can focus on the more competitive moments of each game.
Another strategy to consider is to keep the focus on the teams’ results in February and March and not on what they achieved or failed to achieve in November, December, January. College basketball is a war of attrition, and college teams typically need time to practice before figuring out how their fledgling groups are supposed to play together. For some teams, those early season losses have done significant damage to their Select Sunday resumes from which they are unable to fully recover. Sometimes those diamonds in the rough don’t really come into their own until about a month before the big dance begins – tell me… when’s better to be hot? According to the Torvik rankings, here are a few off-the-national radar teams strong on advanced metrics since Feb. 12, a month before selection Sunday: UCONN (3), Kentucky (6), Utah State (8), Florida Atlantic (14), State of San Diego (15).
History and superstition are also fun things to acknowledge. There are common themes that come up in every tournament. Since 2010, number 11s have been just as likely to win in the first round as their number 6 counterparts; No. 1 seed almost always wins their first two games. Yes, picking all the No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four is too chalky, and picking mass chaos in every region is too crazy to do justice to reality. But if you’re the type of guy who’s drawn to superstitions and conspiracy theories and wants to try and face a potentially big story when it happens, let me introduce you to Jai Lucas, Duke’s assistant coach.
It feels mean of me to write this because I’m sure he’s a great guy who was just a victim of circumstance and chance, but if you tend to be intrigued by something like that, Lucas had Bad luck.
Lucas was an assistant at Texas for Shaka Smart from 2015-2019. During these seasons, Texas ranged from good to very good, yet Texas failed to win an NCAA tournament game. In 2020 he was hired by John Calipari in Kentucky. Coach Cal’s Wildcats racked up more tournament wins (31) than any other program in the country in the years before Lucas joined his team, but they racked up zero in the two years that Lucas was in Kentucky. You probably already have reasons not to believe in this year’s Duke Blue Devils, i.e. Coach K isn’t going through that door, they’re a team that relies heavily on freshmen, six losses in what may be their weakest ACC ever, and a first-time head coach have. However, if you want to try to be on top of the Jai Lucas Jinx (I promise this will be a national story if Duke loses in the first round), this is your chance.
Finally, when it’s time to put pen to paper, you’ll have to trust someone who can survive the gauntlet. A recurring storyline throughout this season has been, “There are no great teams.” I don’t know if it’s due to a lack of great teams or if we’re witnessing even greater parity in a sport that has found a way, excitement to build around parity better than any other sports league on the planet. But there are good reasons to trust one of the following schools:
The Houston Cougars are 29-2 on the season and tick every box for the data lovers: H-Town is No. 1 in the Pomeroy, Torvik and Miyakawa rankings. If you prefer the eye test, Jamal Shead, Jarace Walker, and Marcus Sasser are all terrifying. It takes six straight games of consistent excellence to win this tournament, and none have been more consistent than Houston.
Simply put, the Golden Eagles have been tough to deal with all season. Each of their losses came in tight, hard-fought games that were evened out by 5 points or less. The only exception was a 15-point loss at UCONN. However, Marquette won two of his three games that season against UCONN and most recently on March 10 to knock UCONN out of the Big East Tournament. Head coach Shaka Smart once again has a strong team heading into the NCAA tournament and the Final Four party crasher is overdue for a run.
Texas is a fun and dangerous team that, despite a mid-season coaching change (head coach Rodney Terry replaced Chris Beard on Dec. 12), has managed to push through these adversities to remain in the AP Top 25, very healthy advanced stats and finish second in the packed Big 12 before winning the conference tournament on Saturday as the overall winner. I like how resilient the horns have proven.
Alabama embodies modern basketball as a team that aims to shoot only threes, layups and dunks. The Crimson Tide shoot a lot of three-pointers, make a lot of three-pointers, have the best NBA prospect in the nation in Brandon Miller and are the team most likely to humiliate their opponents in this tournament. I like their threat of dominance.
Choose wisely, choose confidently, and give yourself enough grace to understand that choosing a bracket is an agreement with the universe that you are attempting the impossible. Any mount will break and yours will too, so fingers crossed and enjoy the ride.
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*Initial publication: March 13, 2023 7:36 am CDT
https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/march-madness-bracket-tips/ What you should know before filling out your