Filling out a March Madness bracket has turned into a national pastime of sorts, with everybody from celebrities to the President of the United States taking aside the effort to both lock in and share their tournament predictions.
While bringing home best honors in the ESPN or Yahoo bracket contest may feel like a crapshoot, we talked with a sports information researcher who has applied his computer-driven analytics systems to bracketology to help skew the odds in your favor.
Ed Feng of ThePowerRank.com has devoted his expert career to applying data-driven analytics to sports and he is profoundly viewed as a standout amongst the best in the business with regards to college basketball predictive modeling.
Boasting a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Feng’s mathematical approach to deal with ranking and comparing sports teams is inconceivable with even the most diehard sports fans. In view of this, his book “How to Win your NCAA Tournament Pool” simplifies what could be a staggering idea for those hoping to apply analytics and big-data to this year’s NCAA bracket.
Stage 1.) Apply Basic Analytics
Amateur “bracketeers” pride themselves with accurately predicting a massive upset, but truth be told, there is little more than luck involved when you rightly select the 15th seed to advance over the No. 2 seed. While these “bracket busters” are fun to sniff out, it is also a quick way to put you and your bracket out of contention long before we reach the Sweet 16.
“Since 2002, the higher seed has come out on top in 71.7% of matchups,” says Feng, who points out that the 1,112 total NCAA Tournament games played through 2018 have seen the higher seeded team earn the “W” in 1,057 of matchups.
He proceeds to hail the selection committee for the sheer dimension of precision they apply with regards to selecting 60-plus teams, assigning the best possible seed and eventually setting them into one of four groups. In the world of sports wagering, a winning rate of 54% is considered to be a successful one, yet with information supporting the idea of basically picking favorites, you could be smart to start with that concept when it comes time to fill out your bracket and to leave the hunt for “Cinderella” teams to your competition.
While picking top favorites is going to give you leverage is smaller bracket pools, the concept becomes less effective as the size of the pool increases.
That drives us to his next point; know who you are going up against.
Stage 2.) Know the Size of Your Bracket Pool
Most of individuals enter bracket contests indiscriminately in light of just the top prize. Without a doubt, the yahoo’s $1 million check sounds pleasant, however given the sheer extent of individuals in the running, you might be better off sticking to scratch-off tickets.
Littler pools see your overall odds of winning improve before you even start to fill in your groups, however they additionally limit the probability that others will correctly predict upsets and locate bracket busters.
Utilizing his proprietary ranking system, Feng ran various reproductions to highlight the influence that pool size has on a player’s overall chances of winning a bracket tournament.
While selecting all favorites, the reenactment gave Feng a 38% possibility at winning in a 10 person pool. This rate fell the whole distance to 16% when the competition pool expanded to 30 members, and when taking a gander at a pool of 100 members, the likelyhood of winning fell the whole distance to 5%. You can just envision exactly how compelling (or ineffectual)this strategy would be if you were to apply it to a nationwide tournament, so Feng recommends this approach only when dealing with smaller groups of 100 or fewer entrants.
Stage 3.) Contrarian Approach (Go Against Your Competition)
By essentially choosing the top choices, you have effectively given yourself a not too bad possibility of contending in a small pool, however how might you develop this concept when you are in a medium sized pool? Feng proposes adopting a contrarian strategy in these situations, and this strategy requires you to know your competition.
Bracket tournaments ordinarily take a shot at a points system where effectively foreseeing the result of the opening round games merits few, while nailing your pick for the champion is worth a massive 32 points. This is where you can set yourself apart from your competition.
“Picking a champion is the most important selection you are going to make,” says Feng, “whereas any 12 over 5 (seed) upset in the first round is worth only one point.”
Let’s say you are in an office pool in Raleigh North Carolina with 30-100 people. While Raleigh is home to the North Carolina State Wolfpack, its proximity to both Duke University and the University of North Carolina makes it a pretty safe bet that many of your coworkers will back a local team to cut down the nets.
Local predisposition quite often has an influence when your average fan rounds out their bracket. Contestants know about the team names and give them weighted significance, and who wouldn’t like to see a local team perform above desires. This predisposition can be utilized further bolstering your good fortune, particularly when managing higher seeded teams.
Realizing that many are basically picking the top picks to progress in each round, the general contest standings could be truly close entering the more profound rounds of the tournament and a portion of those ahead of schedule round miracles could cause issues down the road for you. This is when you look to select a champion that goes against the consensus favorite, which could be the top-ranked team in the country or a local contender depending on your location.
Utilizing a same scenario outlined above, selecting Gonzaga to prevail upon the title a nearby most favorite like Duke or UNC could be the move you need to secure your victory. With the majority of the field relying on the same result for 32 points, a winning contrarian prediction would likely put you over the top. On the flip side, it could eventually be your demise should the accord most favorite end up as the winner, however this result would almost certainly have various members in the running and increases the luck aspect of predicting upsets in earlier rounds.
In 2010, Feng’s numbers had given the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks a 31.1% chance to win the NCAA Tournament, a number that was over 10% higher than some other team on his projection board. The public was also aware of this team’s high probability of winning, and 41.8% of all brackets submitted to ESPN had the Jayhawks selected to clinch the title.
Feng proceeds to reference the way that his numbers additionally upheld the Duke Blue Devils as a strong threat, with a 20.9% possibility of winning. While Duke sat next behind Kansas on Feng’s boards, only 6.5% of the public had entered their name as the tournament winner.
Rounding out indistinguishable brackets with the top choices chose, recreations were kept running with the two Kansas and Duke entered as the victor. In little 10 man pools, Kansas still gave you a 38% possibility of winning your pool, with Duke presenting a 30% shot. Be that as it may, when the pool size increased to 50 people, Duke now gave you a 14.8% chance of winning compared to the 10% offered when backing the public favorite.
Winning your bracket pool comes with certain gloating rights, but almost every year we hear stories of someone winning the ESPN or Yahoo contest based off of some absurd strategy. We all know the person who wins a cash prize after filling out their bracket based on their favorite colors or mascots.
They don’t call it “madness” for little more than let Ed Feng’s recommendation help you relieve your misfortunes and capitalize off of your wins. Stick to smaller bracket pools with less than 100 entrants if you hope to have any real shot of winning and apply these three professional suggestions to tilt the odds in your favor.