I obviously place a great deal of trust in respect in Ken Pomeroy’s statistical rankings that use Pythagorean expectation-based offensive and defensive efficiencies. Well, Ken has upped the ante by running a log5 analysis of the tournament field which breaks down the expectation of a given team to reach each round. Even more fun, Neil Paine at Basketball Reference ran Monte Carlo Simulation of the tournament 10,000 times using Pomeroy’s values and posted the very interesting results. Jeff Sagarin’s list uses scoring margin and a clever use of the Elo rating system (originally designed to rank chess players) to come up with his list of things to pick. Naturally, Nate Silver can’t resist weighing in with his method of making picks, which basically does for March Madness what Five Thirty Eight did for electoral math. His system, much like his polling methodology, is a weighted aggregation of different sources like Ken Pomeroy and Sagarin’s ranking plugged in with other factors that Silver thinks are important like geography, player ranking, and pre-season ranking. The sources he pulls from are exhaustive and smart while his methodology is well-reasoned. That said, it’s worth mentioning that a dumb “wisdom of the crowds” type list, such as ESPN’s national bracket (an average of all individual brackets) tends to outperform the majority of individual brackets.
Now, here’s the question: are you trying to predict the winner of games or are you trying to win a pool? These are not the same thing and it’s important to make the distinction. The national bracket, as I mentioned, usually gets a lot of the answers right. For the big questions, common sense is usually close enough. You want to know who has the best chance of winning the NCAA? Ohio State. Pretty much every system, rankings, and analytics have Ohio State as the best team in the country. I happen to think this as well. I also think that the four number one seeds have the best chance of making it to the Final Four. Lots of folks agree with me and lots of analytics back it up.