I’ve completed work on 3 different men’s brackets for the NCAA Big Dance, plus a composite, taking whatever trend seemed to fit between the 3.
I used several extant systems to determine who to slot where. In Bracket 1, I learned toward info from USA TODAY and sports-reference.com info about the schools, putting the accent on coach and team experience within the Big Dance itself, along with average seniority (team with more junior and seniors outranking those with less).
Top coach experience per bracket: East: Butler. West: Ohio State. Midwest: Duke. South: North Carolina.
Most team experience per bracket: East: UNLV (2.68 games per tourney). West: Ohio State (2.78). Midwest: Duke (3.55). South: North Carolina (3.46)
Most seniority: East: Pacific. West: Southern. Midwest: Valparaiso. South: South Dakota State.
Upsets within Bracket 1: St. Mary’s, Cincinnati, California, Wichita State. Yes, I do call for the upset over #6 Memphis, as the Gaels have a more experienced coach, and greater seniority. Randy Bennett took them to the regional semifinal in 2010 and lost in the 2nd round in the last Big Dance. Beyond the first round, the better seeds will have their way.
Here’s Bracket 1, which I posted on ESPN:
In Bracket 2 I relied more on standard ratings and the use of home court advantage. If one team had a decidedly closer venue to travel to from their home school than their opponent, that team got the edge. This, of course, is a very fluid stat, but I worked on it as I went through the process. I also looked at Jeff Sagarin’s ratings on USA TODAY, and also borrowed an idea from this website, which suggests looking at non-conference wins against teams in better conferences.
With the ACC as the best ranked conference, this variable would be moot for those participants, but a mid-major with enough games scheduled against both their contemporaries and the bigger dogs would gain an advantage.
Best W/L record vs Top 50 per bracket: East: Miami. West: Gonzaga. Midwest: Saint Louis. South: Kansas.
Most wins vs better non-conference schools relative to that school: East: Bucknell (11!). West: Gonzaga (7). Midwest: Creighton (7). South: Florida Gulf Coast (5).
Upset wins in this bracket include Missouri, Oregon, St. Mary’s, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Villanova,all in the 1st round. Normalcy will prevail tho beyond this.
Bracket 2, as posted on Fox Sports:
The aforementioned website from Maddux Sports, oriented in gambling (NO I am not gambling on my picks here), made further suggestions about particular stats to watch. One was the margin of defense % vs the 2-point and 3-point shots. The reasoning behind it has to do with the discipline of a team, whether or not they specialize in one system or can actually cover the floor effectively. I took this measure, averaging the high and low scores of both variables against each quadrant in the brackets, and noticed who was closest to the average. Those who were most divergent were those I took a negative view on. The site goes on to point out these variables as ideal to watch: assist/turnover ratio, turnover %, effective FG% and defense of same. I took the team with the majority edge in the 5 variables.
2-point/3-point margin lowest differential: East: Butler. West: Pittsburgh. Midwest: Louisville. South: North Carolina, Akron, UCLA, San Diego St, and Georgetown all share this mark.
Lowest turnover %: East: Bucknell. West: Wisconsin. Midwest: Duke & Colorado State. South: Michigan.
Assist-Turnover ratio: East: Bucknell. West: Notre Dame. Midwest: Duke. South: Michigan.
Efficiency FG % (offense): East: Indiana. West: Belmont. Midwest: Creighton. South: Florida.
Efficiency FG % (defense): East: Bucknell. West: Southern. Midwest: Cincinnati. South: Kansas.
2 upsets in sight for round 1: Middle Tennesse State, and Bucknell. You’ll see that Bucknell scored very high in this group of stats. I do have the Patriot League champions going all the way to the Final 4.
If you need more convincing about the Bisons, USA TODAY’s Patrick Stevens has more:
Here’s the picks for Bracket 3 as posted on The Score:
The composite chart takes the majority picks of all 3. When there is a tie split between all 3, I used every single variable mentioned above to break the tie.
Here’s the composite bracket as posted to Yahoo! Sports:
St. Mary’s prevails as the big upset within round 1, as does Cincinnati and Oklahoma. I have #6 Butler as the lowest of the 4 making the Final 4.
The toughest ties to break were:
Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.
Ohio State, Pittsburgh, New Mexico in the Final 4.
South: VCU, Kansas, Michigan in the Elite Eight.
East: Butler, Marquette, Bucknell in the Elite Eight. This was the absolute most difficult tie to separate.
Butler, Indiana, Bucknell in the Final 4 was nearly as tough.
Stat sources and insights into same include: