05 April 2014

Rating Systems Challenge: Huskies, Wildcats Look to Sink Systems

This post is part of a series tracking the successes and failures of various NCAA Men's Basketball ranking systems and bracket models throughout the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Click here to check out the full series.

One big upset sent a rating system to the Great Bracket in the Sky last Sunday when 8 Kentucky's defeat of 2 Michigan eliminated Lunardi RPI's chances of winning the 2014 Rating Systems Challenge. No final standings were negatively impacted by 7 Connecticut's upset of 4 Michigan State, although it did deprive the ESPN National Bracket, FiveThirtyEight, Vegas and the preseason polls a chance to score some extra points and move up the percentile ladder.

Today's Final Four match-ups threaten to make or break the remaining contenders: Vegas, FiveThirtyEight or the preseason polls.

The next three games will resolve this year's contest in favor of a betting market, a computer system or a pair of preseason polls. FiveThirtyEight cannot win this year's contest outright; if Nate Silver's system is victorious, it will share that victory with the Vegas bracket. That bracket, however, can in fact win outright. The preseason polls are well positioned to share the 2014 title, as well.

For Vegas to win it all and all by itself, 1 Florida will need to win the National Championship. It doesn't matter who they beat, 2 Wisconsin or Kentucky: a Florida title will sink both FiveThirtyEight and the preseason polls.

For FiveThirtyEight to share in the spoils, Wisconsin needs to beat Kentucky. However, Wisconsin does not need to win the National Championship for FiveThirtyEight to tie for first—if the Badgers lose to the Huskies in the final game, FiveThirtyEight finishes in first place. It's only if the Gators reach the finals that FiveThirtyEight would require a Wisconsin victory. In each of these scenarios, Vegas also wins.

For the AP and USA Today Preseason Poll brackets to finish atop the leaderboard, Kentucky must defeat Wisconsin to advance to the final game. However, as in the previous scenario, the preseason polls only require a Wildcat title if Florida also reaches the title game.

Each of these scenarios may become academic by the time the last buzzer sounds tonight. If both Connecticut and Kentucky pull off the upset, the preseason polls will win the 2014 Challenge. If Wisconsin wins, the preseason polls will be finished and Vegas will have clinched a share of first place. If both Connecticut and Wisconsin win, there will be no points remaining in any of the brackets, making Vegas and FiveThirtyEight the winners by default.

Will tonight's games mark the effective end of the 2014 Rating Systems Challenge, or are there still points to be had? Check back Monday—or follow along on Twitter—to find out.

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