## Which March Madness region was most mad in the first round?

Yesterday, I introduced a new metric to the world of college sports, the Madness Metric. By subtracting the expected sum of the two seeds in each round, assuming only favorites win, from the sum of the seeds of the teams that are actually playing, we can get a fairly good sense of just how mad March Madness has really been. Now that the first round (the round of 64, which is officially called the second round but which everyone reasonable calls the first round) is done, I thought it would  be a good idea to check in on our new metric and calculate it for the first time. We’ll do it by region or quarter of the overall field. Each region has teams ranked or seeded from 1-16. In the first round, 1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, and so on. In the second round, starting today, if all the favorites had won, 1 would play 8, 2 would play 7, 3 would play 6, and 4 would play 5. As you know from watching the last couple days of basketball, that’s not exactly how it worked out. The Madness Metric will tell us just how far off we are:

East (+5): Thanks to 11 seed Dayton beating 6 seed Providence. Many people feel like this wasn’t exactly fair because Dayton played their first game, the play-in game in their home stadium, and then this game nearby. Every other favorite in this region won their games.

Midwest (0): Not mad at all! All the favorites won.

West (+11): 10 seed Ohio State University beat 7 seeded VCU, but most of the +11 is due to the darlings of the tournament so far, 14 seed Georgia State which beat 3 seed Baylor, sending themselves to the round of 32 and their coach to the floor.

South (+16): This is the craziest of the regions and all its lunacy will be concentrated into one round of 32 game between 11 seed UCLA and 14 seed UAB. One of these Cinderella teams will be going to the sweet sixteen at least.

Total (+32): This is the first time I’ve ever calculated this metric, so I’m not sure about its history, but this doesn’t seem as crazy overall as one would have expected given that the first day was said to have been the craziest day ever. I’d have to do some historical analysis to figure this out.

As the tournament goes on, I’ll keep you posted about just how crazy it is. Thanks for reading.

## Ways to fill out a March Madness Bracket: Copy

March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the year. Aside from furtively watching games on laptops, tablets, or phones during work, the most common way that people interact with the tournament is through the filling out of March Madness Brackets. Doing a bracket is a form of gambling. Before the tournament begins, a bunch of people get together and (usually using some web software) each predict what they think is going to happen in each of the 67 games during the tournament. Rules vary a little from one platform to another and one group to another, but generally you get points for correctly predicting the winner of a game and those points increase as the tournament goes on. For instance, you might get one point for predicting a game during the first round of the tournament but twenty points for getting the winner of a Final Four or semifinal game right. By and large, brackets are a fun way to get involved with the tournament. It keeps you interested in what’s happening and usually it’s not for enough money to be a problem if you lose.

To help prepare you to fill out a bracket this year, we thought we would explain some common, uncommon, serious, and frivolous ways to fill one out. So far we’ve covered chalktelling a story, and the frivolous approach. Now we’ll take a look at filling out a bracket in the way that gives you the best chance of winning — by letting someone else do the work.

Unless you’re a college basketball nut, you probably haven’t even seen most of the 64 March Madness teams play. Actually, even if you’re a college basketball nut, you probably haven’t seen most of them play. Unless you’re a statistics student or an economics professor, you probably can’t build a model that predicts the outcome of college basketball games. Even if you can create a model, how much better do you think it will be than Dan picking games pretty much at random? Not much better, is the answer. Lucky for us, there are people out there that spend their entire lives watching college basketball or crunching the data produced by college basketball. Why not simply borrow from one of them to fill out your bracket?

Open up Ken Pomeroy’s 2015 College Basketball Rankings or Ed Feng’s The Power Rank or Jeff Sagarin’s Pure Points Predictor. Take a look at their rankings and see which one you prefer. Keep it open in one tab and your bracket in another. Run through the games and choose a winner based on Pomeroy, Feng, or Sagarin regardless of the seeds. Keep it up all the way through the tournament with one possible exception. This year the overwhelming favorite is Kentucky. The Kentucky team is undefeated and first in all three of these rankings. You have to decide what you want to do about that. Because of the way brackets work, choosing Kentucky to win will put you in with the majority of the people you’re competing against. If you do this, you’re relying on getting more of the other games right than anyone else. The alternative is to pick another team to win the whole thing. If you do this and they win, you’ll have a much smaller pool of people who have also taken that team. Normally, I would say to avoid the overall favorite but Kentucky is such an overwhelming favorite (although Nate Silver still says they only have a 40% chance of winning) that I can’t fault you for wanting to take them.

Here’s the cool thing about relying on someone else’s rankings. By doing this, you’ll inevitably create a bracket that’s a good mixture of mostly favorites and some reasonable under-dogs. The NCAA selection committee that creates the 1-16 seedings for the teams in the tournament and because those numbers are right on the brackets, most people simply go with them. They see a #3 and assume that that team is necessarily better than a #6. That’s not necessarily the case. Using a different ranking gives you a built in opportunity to go against the grain while still choosing a team that an expert thinks should win. For example, all three of our rankings options have Utah, a five seed, significantly higher than one would expect from its seeding. That certainly suggests that they’d be a good upset to pick over fourth ranked Georgetown, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them advance over Duke. Another team all three models agree on is Maryland. Maryland is a four seed in the tournament, but all three of the models rank them as weaker than that — one as the 25th best team and two as the 33rd best team.

Of course, none of this might matter. Your friend who picks chalk might finally have her day in the sun or your brother who always picks based on color may be celebrating at the end of the tournament, but this method combines the best chance of winning with the biggest chance of being able to thump your chest and say “I had that” after correctly picking an upset. I’m going to fill in a bracket this way now!

## Ways to fill out a March Madness Bracket: Frivolous

March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the year. Aside from furtively watching games on laptops, tablets, or phones during work, the most common way that people interact with the tournament is through the filling out of March Madness Brackets. Doing a bracket is a form of gambling. Before the tournament begins, a bunch of people get together and (usually using some web software) each predict what they think is going to happen in each of the 67 games during the tournament. Rules vary a little from one platform to another and one group to another, but generally you get points for correctly predicting the winner of a game and those points increase as the tournament goes on. For instance, you might get one point for predicting a game during the first round of the tournament but twenty points for getting the winner of a Final Four or semifinal game right. By and large, brackets are a fun way to get involved with the tournament. It keeps you interested in what’s happening and usually it’s not for enough money to be a problem if you lose.

To help prepare you to fill out a bracket this year, we thought we would explain some common, uncommon, serious, and frivolous ways to fill one out. So far we’ve covered chalk and telling a story. Now we’ll take a look at filling out a bracket in a completely frivolous way.

Here’s the thing about March Madness brackets. They are essentially random. Everyone has been in a bracket pool that ends up being won by someone who didn’t watch a single college basketball game all year and who chose teams based on something insane like proximity to Maryland or how many consonants their team nickname contains. This absolutely infuriates people who think of themselves as knowledgeable about college basketball AND who think that their knowledge should give them an edge over people who don’t take the bracket seriously. This year, why not be the person who doesn’t take it seriously — that way if you somehow end up with the best bracket, you not only win but you also drive your friends, family, or colleagues crazy. Here are a few ideas for guiding principles to a totally frivolous March Madness bracket.

## Team Colors

What could be more ridiculous than choosing winners based on color? The thing is, choose the right color, and it’s just as likely to win as not. The best two colors to run with this year are blue and red. Blue is the overwhelming favorite with three of the top four seeds, Kentucky, Villanova, and Duke wearing blue. Red will get you the other one seed, Wisconsin as well as at least one two seed, Arizona. There simply aren’t enough of the other colors out there to make them a reasonable choice. Although it would be fun to do a bracket where you give preference to any color other than blue or red. I doubt that one would be successful, but it would, at least, be unique!

## Team Names

Team names are always fun to think about. I enjoy dividing the field up into categories and then choosing one or two to run with. This year’s favorite would definitely be cats, with three of the top ten teams Kentucky, Villanova, and Arizona all sharing the name of “Wildcats”. Other cat names in the field are the Northern Iowa Panthers, the Davidson Wildcats, the BYU Cougers, the Cincinattie Bearcats, the LSU Tigers, the Georgia State Panthers, the Lafayette Leopards, and the Texas Souther Tigers. Other popular categories of animals are dogs and birds. You could also probably build a good bracket by having just the non-cat/dog teams win. In this case your champion team could be the UC Irvine Anteaters, by far the best animal mascot in the tournament! Leaving the animal universe, you’ve got some historic names like the Robert Morris Colonials, Xavier Musketeers, and the Virginia Cavaliers, there are even a couple of meteorological forces like the St. John’s Red Storm and Iowa State Cyclones. Choose one category or a combination of categories and run with it.

## Public vs. Private

We all have our biases when it comes to education. Did you go to a private school or a public school for high school? Still paying off a slew of loans from choosing a small liberal arts college or did you go to your state school? There’s plenty of both in this tournament, so why not use school type as your guide to picking wins? Up at the top of the bracket, going private will get you Duke, Villanova, and Gonzaga. Going public will leave you with Kentucky, Wisconsin, Kansas, Virginia, and Arizona. Good luck! As a tie-breaker, you could always use size of school. Go small for private and big for public when both the schools in a game are on one side.

## Ways to fill out a March Madness Bracket: Tell a Story

March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the year. Aside from furtively watching games on laptops, tablets, or phones during work, the most common way that people interact with the tournament is through the filling out of March Madness Brackets. Doing a bracket is a form of gambling. Before the tournament begins, a bunch of people get together and (usually using some web software) each predict what they think is going to happen in each of the 67 games during the tournament. Rules vary a little from one platform to another and one group to another, but generally you get points for correctly predicting the winner of a game and those points increase as the tournament goes on. For instance, you might get one point for predicting a game during the first round of the tournament but twenty points for getting the winner of a Final Four or semifinal game right. By and large, brackets are a fun way to get involved with the tournament. It keeps you interested in what’s happening and usually it’s not for enough money to be a problem if you lose.

To help prepare you to fill out a bracket this year, we thought we would explain some common, uncommon, serious, and frivolous ways to fill one out. So far we’ve covered chalk. Now we’ll take a look at filling out a bracket by telling a story.

## Tell a story about height

If you’ve ever played basketball, even in gym class, you know it’s helpful to be tall. One story you could easily tell about this year’s tournament is that it will be a triumph of height over everything else. This is particularly easy to imagine because the best overall team in the country, the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, is unusually tall. In addition to Kentucky, other very tall teams are Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, and UC-Irvine.

## Tell a story about age

Each year, many of the best players in college basketball are freshman in college. This is because the NBA, the best professional option for basketball players, does not allow its teams to hire players until a year after they graduate from college. Most of the best players in the United States decide to do one year of college and then enter the NBA draft. Teams like Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas, all among the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament, are also among the youngest teams in the country. You can go either way on this one — tell a story about older teams showing the young punks what basketball is all about and take Gonzaga, Wisconsin, or Villanova to win it all. Or go with talent over experience and choose Kentucky, Kansas, or Duke. Use the handy charts on Stat Sheet as your guide.

## Tell a story about conferences

One of the fun things about college basketball is that many of the teams playing each other during March Madness will have never played each other before, at least not this year. There are so many college basketball teams and most of the time during the regular season, teams play other teams within their conference. In order to rank teams from 1-16 in each of the four regions, the selection committee has to make a bunch of assumptions about the relative strength of each conference. Sometimes, they get it wrong. If you think a conference was better than the selection committee thought it was, err on the side of choosing those teams to win games. This year, the Big 12 and Big Ten each got seven teams into the tournament followed by the ACC and Big East with six each, and then the SEC with five and PAC-12 with four. Choose one of those conferences to hate on. Choose another to celebrate. Guide your choices based on conference biases and you’ll create an interesting bracket.

## Tell a story about getting hot

Last year, the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team won March Madness as a seven seed, the first time a seven seed had ever won the championship. What happened? They got hot at the right time and were able to take the momentum they built during a run to the AAC conference championship final and build on it through the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. By the time they got to the final four, they were an unstoppable force firing on all cylinders. Now, there’s all sorts of articles out there debunking the idea that momentum in sports exists during a single game, much less across a multi-week tournament. That said, you could do worse than to look at which teams won or were runners-up of their conference tournaments, especially in the top five or six conferences. Pick teams that have shown recently that they know how to play under pressure.

## Tell a story about pace

Pace is a statistic that expresses the number of possessions a team has during a game. It’s reflective of their style of play. College basketball, because it has a longer shot clock than the NBA (35 seconds rather than 24) has a much more varied pace landscape than professional basketball. Even at the very top of the tournament, among the one and two seeds, there’s a wide variety. Wisconsin and Virginia are two of the slowest teams in the country. They win by playing smothering defense and scoring just a little bit more than the other team. Kansas, Arizona, and Duke are the fastest playing teams of the top eight, although they pale in comparison to the lightning fast LSU and BYU teams. If you love high-paced basketball, make your viewing over the next couple weeks more fun and favor the fast teams. If you love defense, you have some great options to go with as well.

## Ways to fill out a March Madness Bracket: Chalk

March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the year. Aside from furtively watching games on laptops, tablets, or phones during work, the most common way that people interact with the tournament is through the filling out of March Madness Brackets. Doing a bracket is a form of gambling. Before the tournament begins, a bunch of people get together and (usually using some web software) each predict what they think is going to happen in each of the 67 games during the tournament. Rules vary a little from one platform to another and one group to another, but generally you get points for correctly predicting the winner of a game and those points increase as the tournament goes on. For instance, you might get one point for predicting a game during the first round of the tournament but twenty points for getting the winner of a Final Four or semifinal game right. By and large, brackets are a fun way to get involved with the tournament. It keeps you interested in what’s happening and usually it’s not for enough money to be a problem if you lose.

To help prepare you to fill out a bracket this year, we thought we would explain some common, uncommon, serious, and frivolous ways to fill one out. Today we’re starting with chalk.

Chalk is the simplest way to fill out a March Madness bracket. In every game, simply take the team with the better seed. Here’s a quick explanation in case you don’t know what that means. The 64 teams that will start the tournament on Thursday are divided up into four groups of 16 teams each. Within each group, the teams are ranked or seeded from 1 to 16 with the number one team being the most accomplished and likely to win and the number 16 team being the least. In the first round, 1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, 3 plays 14, and so on. Taking chalk means that you pick the team with the better seed (lower numbers are better) in every game.

This term is widely used but doesn’t seem to have a clear derivation. The New Republic and Visual Thesaurus both believe it comes from a time when most betting was done in person at horse races and the odds were maintained by a bookie with a blackboard and a piece of chalk.

The benefit of picking chalk is that you’re almost alway going to be in the running to win your bracket pool. The downside is that you’re almost guaranteed not to win. Chalk is something of a default strategy. Although very few people choose all chalk for their entire bracket, for any given game, more people are going to predict the team with the better seed to win than to predict an upset. Choosing all chalk means that you get the points that most other people get but you’ll never get a point that they don’t. As time goes by, you’ll settle into the top third of the entries but won’t have a very good chance of winning the whole thing. Someone who predicts even a single upset correctly will probably have a better score.

Of course, sometimes chalk is a good idea. Imagine you were playing against only one other person and you knew that she was going to pick a bunch of upsets. By taking all chalk, you’d be pitting her ability to predict the future against the NCAA Tournament selection committee. And that’s a bet, I’d be willing to take. The smaller your bracket pool, the more likely it is for an all-chalk bracket to win. In a larger pool, it’s basically impossible that one of the entries won’t be better than chalk by accurately predicting a major upset.

I’m sure someone more well versed in mathematics or economics could explain the logic of chalk not winning better than me. What I can add to the discussion though, is that picking chalk is less fun than other strategies. One of the best parts of watching college sports and particularly March Madness is that emotion can often carry an underdog to a victory against an overdog. It’s more fun to root for a 13 seed no one has ever heard of with players that won’t make it in the NBA than it is to root for the 4 seed they play against whose players and coaches are virtually professional already. If you choose all chalk, you don’t get to root for upsets and rooting for upsets is fun.

Tune back in later for more (and more fun) ways of filling out a bracket.