Want to skip my resume and methodology and see my picks? Click here.
Hundreds of writers will write hundreds of columns/articles/posts about the 2011 NCAA Tournament, so you may be wondering, why should I listen to this clown?
In 2007, I picked the winner (Florida) along with one other Final Four team (#2 seed Georgetown). In 2008, I picked the winner (Kansas) along with two other Final Four teams (#1-seed UCLA and #1-seed North Carolina). That was enough to line my pocket with a little cash in both years.
2009 was another story. Even though I am on record saying that if Ty Lawson’s toe were 90-95% healthy that North Carolina would have been my pick, I ultimately didn’t have enough confidence in Lawson’s health — special thanks Dick Vitale for calling it “cartoonishly” swollen, stoking my fears — to pick the Tar Heels last season. I picked only one Final Four team (#1-seed UConn) and my winner (Pitt) lost in the Elite Eight to Villanova.
In 2010, I got off to a rough start, but picked both Duke and West Virginia in the Final Four and would have won my pool had the Mountaineers managed to upend the Blue Devils. I’d also like to note that I ignored evidence that Duke (along with Kansas) was one of the two clear favorites to win the title last season. I would have won my pool had a I taken the Blue Devils over the Mountaineers. Sigh.
Here’s my method for March Madness: First, I pull in Jeff Sagarin’s regular season rankings. I also consider Ken Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive efficiency stats, along with his Pythagorean win percentage.
Over the last four years, teams with a 2+ point advantage in Sagarin’s “predictor” rating have won 156 of 198 games (78.7%). Over the last two years, if a team had at least a 65% expected win rate according to Pomeroy’s Pythagorean calculation, they won 61 of 76 games (80.2%). So I won’t stray too far from these two indicators if they both agree that a certain team is going to win.
But not every game is so clear cut. Over the last four years, if there were 198 games that had a Sagarin favorite of at least three points, that means that there were 51 games that did not. My research has found that a Sagarin advantage of 0-2 points yields a 27-24 record and an advantage, so if the Sagarin advantage is less than two points, the game is basically a toss up.
For these games, I’ll look at other factors, like location of the game, offensive and defensive efficiencies, matchups, injuries, current play, and how each team fits the Giant Killers profile. In short, if a game is a toss up, it pays to go with the underdog because most people are going to go with the favorite.
I guess I should mention that I played for Bo Ryan (current coach of the Wisconsin Badgers) at UW-Platteville and started on the 1995 team that went undefeated and won the NCAA Division III National Championship. So I know a little bit about basketball.
Typically, my brackets struggle in the early rounds and then come on at the end. I’m in a regular pool that has 30-35 people in it every year. I’ve placed in the money twice in four years and am always still alive heading into the Final Four. That’s all you can ask for, right?