31 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: Mascot Pun Does Basketball Thing to Math

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

Yes, that's a lazy title, but it is about as much as my fatigued, basketball-ingesting mind can regurgitate this morning.

It would have made sense to come up with some sort of title illustrating how the upset victories of 9 Wichita State and 4 Syracuse threw the rating systems for a loop, but I'm not sure anything makes sense in sports at this point. Besides, my mind is still far too blown to think through anything of the sort. Just imagine a post title that incorporates the word "shocking" and, maybe, "Otto."

I'm not sure which damage is more irreparable: that to the pleasure center of my brain or to the nation's brackets. Probably the latter, and we have evidence. RP Blog is tracking twenty rating systems, yielding forty picks for East and West representatives in the Final Four. These forty picks represented five different schools.

Today, halfway through the Regional Finals, each and every one of these five schools has been eliminated. Inspect the wreckage below:


The last school standing from this half of the bracket was 2 Ohio State, which The Wichita State University took care of last night after deflecting a late Buckeye charge. What sort of effect did this have on the standings in the Rating Systems Challenge? Check the leaderboard below the jump.

30 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: Preseason Polls Dominating? Don't Be So A-maized.

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

Was that awful pun really necessary? Yes, yes it was.

Okay, no it wasn't, but I hope it drew your attention to something that seems amazing but is actually rather common. The preseason polls from AP and ESPN tend to do rather well in forecasting NCAA Tournament results. Last year, the AP Preseason Poll finished fourth overall in the Rating Systems challenge, six spots ahead of the AP Postseason Poll.

On average, the preseason polls are actually slightly more accurate than postseason polls at predicting postseason success. Perhaps the preseason polls are better at measuring the baseline talent level. Perhaps the postseason polls are poisoned by recency bias. Either way, this is the pattern, and it's a pattern that is playing out again this season. Largely thanks to 4 Michigan's (get it? maize?) upset of 1 Kansas, the ESPN and AP Preseason Polls rank #1 and #3, respectively.

Will their lead hold up? Maybe, but most likely not. Read why after the jump.


29 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: The Bitter Taste of Bracket l'Orange

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

The Shockers of 9 Wichita State may have been the lowest seed to advance last night, but 4 Syracuse's upset of 1 Indiana was by far the most disruptive. All twenty systems picked Indiana to advance to the Elite Eight; nineteen picked them to reach the Final Four. Nine had the Hoosiers in the Finals, and three systems—the preseason polls and the ESPN Decision Tree—picked Indiana to win it all.

The only system to pick a different team to win the East Regional was NCAA RPI. That system picked 2 Miami, which fell tonight in another upset to 3 Marquette. In short, all of the East Regional champion picks by the twenty rating systems have been eliminated.


28 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: Regional Preview

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

The Men's NCAA Tournament returns tonight at 7PM EST, bringing with it the potential for some exciting upsets on the way to the Elite Eight. Ten schools that were not the top seed in their region when the tournament began have a chance to advance. Two of those original top seeds—1 Gonzaga and 2 Georgetown—have been eliminated, clearing the way for Cinderellas such as 9 Wichita State, 13 La Salle and 15 Florida Gulf Coast.

In fact, with Wichita State and La Salle facing off against one-another, we are guaranteed to see a 9-seed or lower advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since, well, 11-seed VCU reached the Final Four two years ago.

Unfortunately—but unsurprisingly—none of the rating systems under review picked any of those underdogs to advance that far. The gutsiest picks of these systems were 4 Michigan (picked by the two preseason polls and Sports Reference), 3 Marquette (picked by the ESPN Preseason Poll) and 3 Florida.*

25 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: Eagles Soar, Explorers Explore, Brackets Sore

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

While last night was one of the more exciting nights in recent history for the NCAA Tournament, it was not a particularly interesting night for the Rating Systems Challenge. Our leaderboard remains essentially unchanged.

How could it be otherwise? None of the systems expected a 13 LaSalle / 12 Ole Miss match-up in the Round of 32, let alone that the Explorers would advance. And they're joining Florida Gulf Coast as the first 15-seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen?! Please. If anyone picked this--human or computer--you're not smart, just lucky (or a loyal alum).

Today's leader is the same as yesterday's leader (Sports Reference efficiency rating) and today's laggard is the same as yesterday's laggard (Nolan Power Index). With all the surprises, the disparity between best and worst is only five picks out of forty-eight. Read more about those surprises after the jump.


24 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: Shocking Upset Busts Brackets


This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

Another exciting night of college basketball has shaken up the race for top dog in the 2013 Rational Pastime Rating Systems Challenge.

After the third full day of the NCAA Tournament we see the Sports Reference efficiency system take the lead, edging out Chalk and other brackets by the smallest of margins. Five other systems are tied with Chalk in total points but have more possible points remaining.

Interestingly, sitting in second place behind one of the more advanced rating systems is one of the least sophisticated entrants: the ESPN Preseason Poll. Both the Sports Reference and ESPN Preseason systems benefited from correctly picking 6 Arizona to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Bringing up the rear yet again is our perennial laggard: the Nolan Power Index. NPI unfortunately projected 5 Virginia Commonwealth and 6 Memphis to advance; Big Ten powerhouses from the Wolverine State easily felled them both.

Of course, the stories of the day were the two big upsets: 12 Oregon's tidy win over 4 Saint Louis and 9 Wichita State's "shocking" (sorry) victory over the postseason poll favorite, top-seeded Gonzaga. Keep reading after the jump to discover what effect this will have on the various systems' performance in the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.

22 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge: Veritas in Ludo

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

 14 Harvard shocked the world last night, eliminating New Mexico and probably more than a few brackets from competition.

Other than the two systems (Lunardi RPI, NCAA RPI) that put New Mexico in the Final Four, the Crimson victory had very little affect on the Rating Systems Challenge--none of the systems predicted this upset.

In fact, the several systems were more wrong than right on the topic of Thursday upsets. The three most favored upsets--Mizzou/CO State, St. Mary's/Memphis, Bucknell/Butler--failed to materialize.The systems also missed California's 12-5 upset over UNLV. Overall, the combined systems were a paltry 3/28 if you count only the upsets they predicted, 3/30 if you include the upsets they ignored altogether.

It wasn't a complete wash. Two systems (ESPN Computer, ESPN Decision Tree) correctly identified Oregon's 12-5 upset of Oklahoma State, while one system (NCAA RPI) picked 9 Wichita State over 8 Pittsburgh.



With so many swings and misses (air balls? bricks?), it is no surprise that the standings after one day's play are exceptionally chalky. Read past the jump for the leaderboard and additional analysis.

21 March 2013

Rating Systems Challenge, 2013 Edition

This post is one in a series investigating how the various college basketball rating systems predict the men's NCAA Tournament. Click here to read the rest.

It's great to be back!

Welcome to the third season of the Rational Pastime Rating Systems Challenge. For each system we constructed a bracket in which the higher-rated team always wins (with the exception of the National Bracket and the LRMC Bayesian systems, which construct their own brackets).

Each of these systems will compete against a pure chalk bracket and millions of individual players in the ESPN Tournament Challenge format. We will track the systems and see how well they perform over the course of the tournament.

Chalk wins in the case of ties or an absence of information. In the case of Vegas numbers, we use their round of 64 lines for the first match ups and the national championship odds for the remainder. Play-in games are not considered. We will update the standings after each day of tourney play.

The following systems' Final Four projections are presented in the table below. More information is available after the jump.