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.


Marquette's win was a major boon for the ESPN Preseason bracket, the only bracket that put Marquette in the Elite Eight. ESPN's Preseason Poll took the lead tonight after Miami's loss. Think about that for a second: of all the systems, the most accurate one to-date was constructed by a survey of experts before the season even began.  However, this bracket is in trouble the rest of the way, as it is among the systems that picked Indiana to win it all.



The best-positioned systems at the moment, in second and third place with the most possible points remaining, are the Sports Reference efficiency system and the HSAC Survival model. Going forward, look for Pomeroy's system to move up a few spots as well. Finally, if 3 Florida stumbles, we might expect the ESPN Computer and FiveThirtyEight simulations to make a big move.

The worst-positioned systems are, unsurprisingly, our last-place systems: the two RPI formulas and Nolan Power Index. All three systems performed so poorly that they gained zero points in last night's competition. Of these three, only NCAA RPI has a significant number of points remaining.


What sorts of upsets can we expect today? Well, Florida is fine position to reach the Elite Eight despite not being the top original seed in their region. Fifteen systems picked Florida to advance, so a third straight upset by the Florida Gulf Coast Cinderellas would put quite a few brackets on ice.

More likely (and more potentially disruptive) are upsets by 3 MSU, 4 Michigan and perhaps 12 Oregon. A win by Oregon would knock the consensus favorite, 1 Louisville, out of the NCAA Tournament. A win by Michigan would eliminate 1 Kansas and further clear Florida's path to the Final Four.

Tune in tomorrow to see how our systems fared in the second day of Regional play.

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