Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Pick a Bracket

All right, we’ve all seen the crazy gimmick of how to pick your brackets. My personal favorites are choosing which team has the shortest name. This is particularly useful in years when Duke and UCLA (Yes if I chose longest names, UCLA would be come University of California in Los Angeles, they can be useful either way) are good. I also like the dominant mascot way of picking, mainly for the logic and reasoning of the picks. A Hoosier is probably a farmer, and a razorback is basically a pig, and farmers take care of pigs, so clearly the farmer wins! Funny how you can set up a mascot fight and have the team you want to win come out on top of it right?

But even though we always try to replicate the random logic some people use. We know someone’s cousin Emily will pick based on their favorite color, somehow predict George Mason reaching the Final Four, and then win the pool.

(Speaking of George Mason, I will always claim some credit with them. I picked Michigan State to beat them in the first game. But, I had Michigan State beating exactly every team they beat on their way to the final four. That’s got to count for something right, right?)

Fear no more, armchairsuperstar is here to help!

What is the key to winning the bracket? Getting teams into the Final Four! Regardless of scoring, those teams get you points each and every round they are right and even more points when they have reach the final four.

I actually have done some statistical analysis on the Final Four for ever year since 1985 (The Year it expanded to 64 teams) and have noticed two trends.

1st Trend: 2 teams from 1 conference make it to the final four.

Of the past 25 tournaments 2 teams from 1 conference have made the Final Four 18 times (1985 the Big East had 3 teams that made it). That’s 72% of the time.

Now you might be thinking, ok great, 2 teams from 1 conference. Well how many conferences are there? Agreed it may seem difficult to pick which conference it is going to be. There are only a few conferences that have more then 2 or 3 teams receiving bids and the conferences with only 2 or 3 teams will most likely not be able to have 2 of them making the Final Four So now we are only talking about 5 conferences to choose from. That’s not that bad.

Looking at the potential teams this year; I think the best option of having multiple teams make the final four is the Big East, with one Number 1 Seed, two Number 2 seeds and three Number 3 seeds.

2nd Trend: A team from last years Final Four will return to the Final Four

Of the past 25 tournaments, 16 times a team from the previous years Final Four has made it back to the Final Four (In 1991 and 2007 two teams returned to the Final Four). That’s 64% of the time. Again I know not a super high number.

Think of it this way. If you knew nothing about basketball besides the last years final four; there is a 16% chance you get one right (64% * 25% [1 out of 4 picking the correct team from last year]). That’s blindly picking. What if you watch college basketball and know stuff about teams. Like last year, when North Carolina was a number 1 seed, and was likely to make it again.

Looking at the potential teams this year Villanova and Michigan State (UConn and UNC did not make the bracket) I feel like Villanova has the best chance of getting back. They got the expierenced guard play that is needed to get through the tournament. Michigan State has landed in the toughest region that includes Kanasa, Georgetown and Ohio State.

So what are the odds that both 2 teams from 1 conference and a return team happen in the same year? Well, these odds are a lot lower. Only 10 times in the past 25 years has this occurred. That's 40%. Now that's not a bad percentage but probably not as high as you would like.

Now you might be asking, ok these odds are really not that overwhelming, why should I pick my bracket this way? Well Either 2 teams from 1 conference or a repeat team returning to the final four has occurred 24 of 25 times!!! Only one year has neither trend occurred. That is why you should consider picking your brackets this way.

Here is a year by year breakdown of the two trends.

2 From 1 Con (Y/N) Return Teams (#) Both (Y/N)

2009 Yes 1 Yes
2008 No 1 No
2007 No 2 No
2006 Yes 0 No
2005 Yes 0 No
2004 Yes 0 No
2003 Yes 1 Yes
2002 Yes 1 Yes
2001 Yes 1 Yes
2000 Yes 1 Yes
1999 Yes 0 No
1998 No 1 No
1997 No 1 No
1996 Yes 0 No
1995 No 1 No
1994 Yes 0 No
1993 No 1 No
1992 Yes 1 Yes
1991 Yes 2 Yes
1990 Yes 1 Yes
1989 Yes 1 Yes
1988 Yes 0 No
1987 Yes 0 No
1986 No 0 No
1985 Yes 1 Yes

Now I am not saying that these will guarantee success or even to use them. But just something to think about while your picking your bracket.

I have just one small disclaimer that makes me sound like a Wall-Street analyst. Past performance does not indicate future earnings. So take this information with a grain of salt.

The point of doing the brackets is to have fun. So have fun and enjoy March Madness!

One last side note: Since there is a lot of which conference is better then every other conference trash talk going on nowadays, here’s a breakdown of how many times each conferences have had multiple final four teams.

Big Ten
Big XII (Big 8)
Big East


  1. Villanova... and Syracuse?

    Syracuse is way too banged up. Hrm. I dunno what to do there, but 'Nova seems like a good pick.

  2. I might have to roll with WVA, although I'm terrified of Kentucky.

    The Mountaineers own a little soft spot in my cold, evil heart.

  3. I'm leaning towards Nova and UWV right now to reach the two requirements.

  4. My final four right now (and I hate it too):

    Kansas State

  5. Just picked my final four, and went balls out:

    Ohio State

    ...with Ohio State over 'Nova in the final.

    Yes, I'm nervous.

  6. Butler in the Final Four? Ballsy, Stupid, but Ballsy

    I have Butler losing to UTEP. Haha