My NCAA 2016 brackets

That time of year again, already! 2 days worth of research, and waiting on the First Four has led to this post as I unveil my 4 brackets, essentially 3 brackets, each using separate stats, and a composite.

Bracket 1 I’m doing for Yahoo! Sports using these stats: Average number of wins per tournament for each school and coach, and most upperclassmen.

1st round upsets include SD State, UConn, Cincinnati, Michigan, Pitt, Butler, Gonzaga. I see UConn and Butler being best chance as Cinderellas within this bracket.  Ultimately, U Conn should be the lowest seed to sneak in.
Bracket 3 I am doing for ESPN. Here I am using the teams’ record vs the current top 50, team with less travel in distance (ignoring games when both teams are too close or too far away), and number of games won outside conferences v. better conferences.
First round upsets: UConn, SD State, Wichita St, Temple, Cincy, N Iowa, VCU, SF Austin, Pitt, Butler, Gonzaga. Once again, UConn, Wichita State will be big surprises, tho I also see a nice from VCU. Wichita State to advance as worst seed here.

Bracket 2 I am doing for Capital One.  Here I use actual stats: offensive and defensive efficiency, difference of defense % vs 2pt and 3pt success, TO per possession.

http://bracketchallenge.ncaa.com/#bracket?entry_id=926170&controller=bracket
First round upsets here include UConn, SD State, Wichita State, Cincinnati, N Iowa, USC, Michigan, Pitt, Butler, Gonzaga.  UConn here should also leave a big impact as does Wichita State, the latter pulling the big upset and getting to Houston as a #11 seed.

In the composite (CBS Sports) , the toughest task was to separate Virginia, Butler and Purdue in the Midwest, along with West Virginia, Michigan and Notre Dame in the East. Michigan State was the only unanimous pick in each of my Final Four matchups.

Ultimately my national final prediction is be a classic Duke/UNC contest, with Duke winning narrowly for the title.
Sources for stats: www.teamrankings.com

My NCAA tournament predictions for 2015

I’m approaching this year’s brackets much the way I’ve done the last few years, combining assorted variables with some historical merit, in a manner that covers as much ground as possible in predicting a champion.
Here’s how they look:
Bracket 1 was posted to FOX Sports.  Here I look at these angles:
Average number of games participated by school and coach, and total number of upperclassmen.
Upsets possible: Midwest: Texas, Indiana.  West: Ole Miss, Ohio State, Oklahoma State to the round of 16. South: St. Johns, Stephen F. Austin. Iowa appears to be a Cinderella team. East: Dayton, Michigan State (the latter a similar Cinderella as the #7, seeing them reach the Final Four)
Bracket 2 was posted to Sports Illustrated. In this I pick the team with the shortest travel (tho if both teams are far away or very close to the arena I won’t count this), along with teams who excelled vs the current top 50.  I further looked at teams that had non-conference wins against better conferences based on strength of schedule.
Upsets: Midwest:  Valpo, Northeastern. Butler to the Elite Eight. West: Wolford, Ole Miss, Georgia State. Georgia State breaks through to Sweet Sixteen. South: St. Johns, Eastern Washington (Sweet Sixteen).  East: LSU, UC Irvine, Dayton, Albany, Georgia State. I see Dayton getting as far as the Elite Eight.
Bracket 3: is on Yahoo!Sports. For this I used specific variables at www.teamrankings.com related to efficiency on O and D, 2- and 3-point shooting defense and the differential, and turnovers per possession.
Upsets: Buffalo, Purdue, Valpo, OK State, SD State, Dayton, Albany. I see Valpo and Dayton getting to the Sweet Sixteen and Wichita State being the Cinderella team.
Bracket 4 is a composite of the 3. This official bracket is on ESPN. Upset specials out of the round of 64: Valpo, Ole Miss, Ohio State, St. Johns, Dayton, Albany. Round of 32: Butler, Wichita State, Dayton. Round of 16: Wichita State, my true Cinderella for this year.
Here are some divisional records to watch:
Successful coaches:  Duke 3.60 games per tourney. Michigan State 3.41. Kentucky 3.80. UNC: 3.54.
Least successful with at least 1 appearance: Manhattan, Hampton, NM State, Wolford, Georgia State, Iowa (1.33), LSU, Lafayette, Providence, Boise State, Belmont.
Successful schools: Kansas 3.20. UNC: 3.40. Duke: 3.50. Michigan State 3.07. Least with at least 1 appearance: NM State, TX Southern, Wolford, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Washington, Boise State, Albany, Belmont
Most upperclassmen: Hampton, 10. OK State, 11. Iowa, 9. Lafayette, UC Irvine, Boise State, Virginia, 9. Least: Indiana, NM State, 4. VCU, 4. UAB, 3. LSU, Louisville, Providence, 4.
Best WL vs top 50: Kentucky 14-0. Arizona 11-0. Iowa State 13-5. Villanova 13-1.    Worst: TX: 3-13. TX Southern, 1-5. SMU: 0-5.  Georgia 1-6.
Most wins vs better conferences in non-conference games: SFAustin: 6. Albany: 6. Wichita State: 6. Coastal Carolina: 9.
Lowest differential between defensive 2pt and 3pt %. Texas: 3.0%. Wisconsin: 7.9%  Georgetown: 6.8%. UC Irvine: 6.8%.

Predicting tonight’s NCAA men’s basketball final

So here’s my attempt at picking the winner of a basketball game. The only
other time I’ve done so is, well, last year’s NCAA finals. I’m no expert
with stats in this sport but I know what to look here. Borrowing the stats
I used to build 4 brackets, here’s how the two measure up.

Average tournament games per tournament by coach: UConn: 0. Kentucky: 3.64
Average tourney games by school: UConn: 2.7 Kentucky: 3.01
Number of upperclassmen on roster: UConn: 9. Kentucky: 4
Closest school to neutral site: Kentucky, at
Best WL% vs schools in top 50: UConn: 13-7 Kentucky 8-8.
Most wins vs better conference in non-conference games:
Kentucky: vs Providence (Big East), plus these in the NCAA Tournament: wins
over Kansas State (Big 12), Michigan, Wisconsin (Big 10). Total: 4 (UConn in
the ACC would be their 5th)

UConn: wins over Indiana (Big 10), Washington (Pac 12). NCAA Tournament:
wins over Villanova (Big East), Iowa State (Big 12), Michigan State (Big
10). 5 total wins.

*Lowest differential between defensive 2-point % and defensive 3-point %:
UConn: 8.5% Kentucky: 12.3%
*Lowest turnover ratio per possession. UConn: 17.1% Kentucky: 17.7%

*Highest assist-turnover ratio. UConn: 1.076 Kentucky: .940

*Higher efficiency of field goal % on offense. UConn: .514 Kentucky: .497
*Lower efficiency of field goal % on defense. UConn: .439 Kentucky: .450

Also adding these:
Head to head: No games
Common opponents:
Michigan State:
UConn won in the Elite Eight matchup 60-54 (neutral)
Kentucky lost in regular season 74-78 (neutral)

Florida:
Kentucky lost at home 69-59, away 84-65, and a conference tournament game
(neutral), 61-60
UConn won at home 65-64 in regular season, and Final Four matchup (neutral),
63-53

Louisville:
UConn lost at home 76-64, on the road 81-48, and conference tourney
(neutral) 71-61
Kentucky won at home 73-66 and Sweet Sixteen matchup (neutral) 74-69

By my count, UConn has better stats than Kentucky by at least a 2-1 margin,
and therefore the Huskies should prevail.

A postmortem, and a look to Saturday

A thrilling ride through the first 2 rounds, only to see it crash and burn like your worst roller coaster nightmare. OK, someone’s worst.
From the ESPN (composite, official) bracket:
http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/2014/en/entry?entryID=24567
27 wins in the Round of 64
10 wins in the round of 32
3 wins in the Sweet Sixteen
1 win in the Elite Eight.
Total of 41 wins, with 1 more to come if Wisconsin wins in the Final 4.
You’ll notice the perfect West division I predicted. Maybe Warren Buffett can spare $5,000?
From CBS Sports I went 24/8/2/1 for a total of 33 wins, plus 2 if Wisconsin wins out.
http://freebracketchallenge.1.mayhem.cbssports.com/brackets/1/cblue456

From .FOX Sports I went 25/9/3/1, 38 wins, and this is busted.
http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/collegebasketball/tourney/entry/?entry=956539

And for Sports Illustated: 23/10/4/0 = 37 wins, busted
http://sportsillustrated.collegehoops.upickem.net/collegebasketball/brackets/printbracket.asp?userid={28F9D17D-0AEA-47F4-A880-B76D72D02770}&affiliateguid={24864C91-D513-4858-98B4-0E62CC56A5A3
****
Also in horses: I did wager on these 3 horses as I surmised from Friday in the future wager: California Chrome, Ring Weekend, We Miss Artie, in wins and exactas. I also involved the field selections.

So much happening between all horses on the trail that it’s challenging to figure who has the best chance of getting enough points to be in the big show.

On Saturday I plan to give you my analysis of the Wood Memorial (Samraat, Social Inclusion, Uncle Sigh) and the Santa Anita Derby (California Chrome, Bayern, Hoppertunity, Candy Boy, The Admiral are contenders), along with the historic Grand National at Aintree. Mind you, I don’t know much about ‘chasers, and I haven’t scored yet in wagering on this event but I’m excited to see this one. While I have it in mind, I truly would like the fences at Aintree, which average 4’10” in height, higher than its companion National Hunt fences, to be at the same level, for the sake of safety of all concerned. Aintree has seen it’s share of tragedy at the track, and this has to be curtailed.

A word about golf, in noting the new standards set by the World Golf Hall of Fame: The sport really should be co-ed. The HOF is co-ed, so why not the competition? I’m all for women playing at private clubs. Let’s take it a step or 3 further, and let’s engulf the LPGA into the PGA or vice versa, so there’s a large rota of courses and championships.

My 2014 NCAA bracket breakdown

As with my sets of picks from last year, here’s how I picked each bracket, with different websites involved, and with split stats covering the division (listed in order of East, South, West, Midwest)
BRACKET 1 (Sports Illustrated)
Stats courtesy of the team capsules done by USA Today www.usatoday.com
*Average tournament games by coach. Best by division: UNC (3.60), Florida, VCU (3.33), Baylor (3),Duke (3.68)
*Average tourney games by school: UNC (3.43), Kansas (3.26), Baylor (2.57), Duke (3.56)
*Number of upperclassmen on roster. Harvard (11), Eastern Kentucky (12), OK State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Oregon (9 each), Texas-Southern (10). Best seeded team with at least 9: Ohio State, with 9 upperclassmen.

Possible upsets: Round of 64: Pitt, Stanford, St. Joe’s, OK State, Texas-Southern (YES I know, a #16, but it can happen), Xavier, Iowa. Round of 32 is more sedate but I do see these reaching the 16: Ohio State (6), UNC (6), Kentucky (8), Baylor (6 again). All but Ohio State should get to the Elite 8, and UNC and Baylor should reach the Final 4. Final: A classic, Duke over UNC (who triumphs over Kansas in the Final 4 matchup)

Here’s how this bracket looks: http://sportsillustrated.collegehoops.upickem.net/collegebasketball/brackets/printbracket.asp?userid={28F9D17D-0AEA-47F4-A880-B76D72D02770}&affiliateguid={24864C91-D513-4858-98B4-0E62CC56A5A3}

BRACKET 2 (FOX)
Here I mainly examined stats from the Sagarin website. http://sagarin.com/sports/cbsend.htm
*Closest school to neutral site
*Best W-L % vs schools in current top 50: Villanova (.727), Florida (.833), Arizona (.785), Wichita State (3-0)
*Most wins vs better conference in non-conference games. Top schools had fewer non-conference games of a better conference (Big 12 schools, at the top, had none, of course), so the weaker conferences had more opportunities to score here. Top conferences measured by Sagarin’s strength of schedule are Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast, Southeastern (it pays to be big). Worst: Southwestern, Independents, Mid-Eastern, Big South (north), Southland, Southern (what’s up with the South?) By division: 5 (George Washington, Harvard, North Carolina Central, UConn, a #7 seed); 8 (Stephen F. Austin); 8 (New Mexico State); 7 (Manhattan).

Possible upsets: Round of 64: Pitt, SF Austin, Dayton, New Mexico, GW, St Joe’s, ND State, Louisiana Lafayette. Round of 32, all better seeds prevail, tho UNC, Baylor and UMass advance as #6 seeds but get no further than Sweet 16.

BRACKET 3: (CBS) Here I used stats from www.teamrankings.com
*Lowest differential between defensive 2-point % and defensive 3-point %

By division: 8.1 (Villanova), 7.0 (New Mexico), 8.9 (Baylor), 8.5 (Texas)
*Lowest turnover ratio per possession. By division: 13.2 (Delaware), 14.3 (Syracuse), 12.4 (Wisconsin), 14.0 (Duke)
*Highest assist-turnover ratio. By division: 1.486 (Michigan State), 1.634 (UCLA), 1.784 (Creighton), 1.553 (Duke)
*Higher efficiency of field goal % on offense. By division: 54.5 (Michigan State), 57.0 (Eastern Kentucky), 59.3 (Creighton), 55.4 (Michigan)
*Lower efficiency of field goal % on defense. By division: 43.4 (North Carolina Central), 44.9 (New Mexico), 42.2 (Arizona), 43.8 (Louisville)
Possible upsets (there’s a bunch here): Round of 64: Pitt, SF Austin, Dayton, Eastern Kentucky, Saint Joe’s, ND State, NM State, BYU, NC State, Iowa, Arizona State. Round of 32: Pitt (9), New Mexico (7), ND State (12). Sweet 16 and Elite 8: New Mexico. All other selections are the better seed. CBS won’t let me save to a URL. Finals: Wisconsin over UCLA. Final 4 also includes Villanova and Duke.

COMPOSITE bracket (ESPN) takes the majority decision of each variable.

Upsets in this bracket:
Round of 32: Pitt, SF Austin, Dayton, St. Joe’s, ND State, NC State, Iowa. Beyond that, it’s all top 4 seeds to progress further except for Baylor and UNC, both of whom are #6 seeds.

It was hardest to break ties in 7 occasions:
Kansas over Syracuse and New Mexico in the Sweet 16
Kansas over Florida and UCLA in the South Elite 8.
Wisconsin over San Diego State and Baylor in the West Elite 8.
NC State over Saint Louis and Xavier in the round of 32

Louisvile over Wichita State and Kentucky in the Midwest Elite 8.

I ended up with this consensus:
East: Villanova. South: Kansas. West: Wisconsin. Midwest: Duke.

Finals matchup: Villanova vs. Wisconsin (very narrow over Duke)
Championship to go to Villanova


Notably in the regular season both schools would be undefeated v 3 common opponents: Iowa, St. John’s, and Marquette (Villanova 5-0, Wisconsin 4-0)

NCAA bracket predictions, with explanation (and feeling)

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:
West:
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:
www.teamrankings.com
www.sports-reference.com
www.usatoday.com
http://www.madduxsports.com/library/cbb/important-stats-handicappers-need-to-know.html