28 March 2014

Rating Systems Challenge: Vegas, FiveThirtyEight Higher Flyers

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.

After the first day of the second week of NCAA Tournament Play, the FiveThirtyEight and Vegas systems remain atop the Rating Systems Challenge leaderboard. They were beneficiaries of their competitors' lack of faith in a certain short-legged omnivore. No big deal—there was little chance for a shakeup on the leaderboard last night, anyway. Tonight is different.

If there were going to be a differentiator among yesterday's games, it was most likely going to be 2 Wisconsin's match-up against 6 Baylor. Eight systems did not pick the Badgers to advance: LRMC Bayesian, Sports Reference, Pomeroy, the Survival Model, ESPN Insider's Computer and Decision Tree pickers, the Nolan Power Index and the preseason polls (all but the preseason polls had Creighton winning that game). And differentiate it did as the remaining eleven brackets pulled ahead with Wisconsin's convincing victory.

The second slate of games last night threatened the Final Four choices of every bracket in the Challenge, especially 1 Arizona's narrow victory over 4 San Diego State. However, neither of the 1-seeds went down last night, and none of the systems lost any picks going forward.

Friday will be different. In tonight's contest between 4 Louisville and 8 Kentucky, at least two brackets will lose National Championship picks, while 1 Virginia vs. 4 Michigan State will eliminate at least five Final Four picks. The Cavaliers-Spartans match-up is likely to be tonight's differentiator, as six systems (FiveThirtyEight, Vegas, Sports Reference, the ESPN National bracket and the preseason polls) are picking Michigan State for the upset. The preseason polls are the only systems that expect the Wildcats to beat the Cardinals.

Meanwhile, 11 Tennessee also has an opportunity to take out Lunardi RPI's Midwest champion, 2 Michigan. The only game that's inconsequential for the Rating Systems Challenge is 3 Iowa State vs. 7 Connecticut—every bracket picked now-eliminated Villanova to win that one.

How will today's games affect the rating systems' chances going forward? Check back tomorrow—or follow along on Twitter—to find out.

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