My bracket tips on WISC-TV Live at Four

Watch me on WISC-TV (CBS) Live at Four on 3/15/2016

I had a wonderful time on Live at Four talking about bracketology. Kudos to Susan Siman and Mark Koehn as well as producer Steve Koehn for making everything so easy. Live news moves so fast! I didn’t articulate a few points very well. I’ll try to explain here:

  1. I didn’t say what I meant by an “upset.” Defining an upset is a maybe a super-professorial thing to do, but I can’t help myself. An upset is usually defined as the lower seeded team winning. However, some teams are seeded too low and others are too high as as a result some upsets are not as surprising as the seeds suggest. I like to take a look at the rankings of the two teams and the win probabilities to get a better sense of a game being hard to predict. For example, according to the FiveThirtyEight win probabilities, Arizona (6)/Wichita State (11) game features has a 50% win probability for each team despite a big seed differential. Other games may not be so evenly matched but produce win probabilities between 25%-75%, which means that we would expect at least 1 of 4 of these games to produce upsets, on average. I am not so surprised when this happens. I am more surprised when the win probabilities are less than 10%. There are definitely upsets in the tournament but often they are not rare events. For more, read Nate Silver’s thoughts on upsets here.
  2. Regarding the perfect bracket. While I think someone will get the perfect bracket, I don’t think it will happen this year. Or next year. Or in the next decade. Maybe we will see one within the next 100 years. There are different estimates on the probability of getting all the picks right, many are in the range of 1-in-100 billion. So many people fill out brackets–there were 11.5 million brackets on ESPN alone in 2015. With so many attempts to hit the target, I think one will strike…eventually. When it happens, it will happen on one of those years when there are not too many upsets. In 2014 with Final Four seeds 1,2, 7, 8 there were only 612 brackets on ESPN with all Final Four teams picked correctly. But in 2015 with Final Four seeds 1, 1, 1, 7 (the 7 seed was tournament darline MSU), there were 182,709 brackets with all Final Four teams picked correctly. Some years are easier to forecast than others. Given all the brackets in the online pools out there, I think we will eventually see a perfect bracket even if it does not win the official prize. More here.
  3. To win your pool, you don’t need a strategy that maximizes your points, you need a strategy that gives you more points than your opponents. Those two strategies are very similar but slightly different. To Here are Ken Massey’s composite rankings I mentioned in the interview for figuring out who the best teams are. And of course, here are my rankings at Badger Bracketology. Check our ESPN’s Who Picked Whom to see which teams may be overvalued and undervalued.

It’s time for me to stop over-analyzing my bracket advice and fill out my bracket. Good luck!

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