Big East Hoops

Archive for March, 2010

Getting physical

March 21, 2010 10:26 am by Dan'l B

Kansas State gave me flashbacks to Georgetown circa John Thompson. Man they’re bruisers. Syracuse, should they meet them, might struggle with these guys because of their relatively thin frontline. Onuaku’s health will be very important.

The other obvious comparison is Pitt, and K-State is now waiting for them in Salt Lake. Could be ugly.

Kansas’ loss helps the Big East in so many ways

7:59 am by Big Willie Style

I think it’s clear that this NCAA tournament has pretty much been a disaster for the Big East conference. However, now that Kansas has been upset, the Big East’s failures in this tournament is just one of the stories, not THE story of this edition of March Madness. I was getting worried that in future years, the tournament selection commitee may rememeber our performance this year and slight us a team or two because we have proven so poorly thus far. But now that we’re not the main story anymore, I feel better. If Pitt or Syracuse or West Virginia can make the Final Four, or even win the whole thing, I think all the talk about the Big East’s futility will be forgotten. And now that the Jayhawks are out, that door is open for anyone to win this thing.

Cautionary Group Think Lesson

March 19, 2010 10:44 am by Dan'l B

There are roughly 5 million brackets filled out for the ESPN challenge this year. It should be easy to guess how many brackets are perfect through 16 games as of this morning.

What should be the case if brackets were filled out blindly? If we ignore all information such as seed and resume, we’d have to flip an unweighted coin to decide each match. Given 5 million brackets filled out by coin flip, we’d get the perfect combination about 70 times.

But there’s plenty of information that should help us make better decisions. Most glaringly, A #1 seed has never lost.  What if we advance them in every bracket and flip a coin for the rest. With only 14 unweighted coin tosses, the number of perfect brackets jumps to 300. That’s impressive, but we know things about all of the teams and should be able to make more educated decisions than that.

Sagarin, Pomeroy, and others provide all sorts of tempo-free and margin-adjusted ratings to inform our decisions, so what happens when we apply that knowledge? Strictly taking their favorites isn’t very good–that would net precisely 0 clean sheets so far. Instead, let’s use coins weighted by probabilities for each team generated from the ratings systems. If we use weighted coin flips based on Ken Pomeroy’s ratings (see the series of articles on Tuesday, 3/16, here: and look at the first round odds) or similar systems such as Sagarin’s PREDICTOR, there would be about 700 perfect brackets right now. If the #1 seeds were automatically advanced and the other 14 games were chosen by unweighted coin flip on all brackets, there would be roughly 300 perfect brackets this morning. If every game of every bracket was filled out by unweighted coin flip–including the 1v16 games–there would be roughly 70 perfect brackets right now. There are 56 perfect brackets left.” target=”_blank”> and look at the first round odds) or similar systems such as Sagarin’s PREDICTOR, there should be about 700 perfect brackets generated out of 5 million. This approach gives our most unbiased, informed result: a 1/7000 chance of a perfect bracket this morning.

Alas, there aren’t a couple million bracketologists filling out those five million brackets, so we shouldn’t expect that best-case result. Logically, the results should fall somewhere between 70 and 700, our predictions for a completely blind crowd and a fully informed one. Odd then, that there are only 56 perfect brackets left. Ouch. I suspect a few million too many people listed to the pundits way too much–enough to make them collectively less wise than a penny. That’s my two cents at least.

I <3 March Madness

March 18, 2010 10:51 am by donald

Today is Christmas day for college basketball fans. First round action begins and fans get to experience the awesomeness that is four games going on at the same time.

The NCAA tournament is, without a doubt, the best run postseason in all of sports. Anybody will tell you that. A simple, one-elimination bracket on neutral (well, sometimes) courts is exactly how to decide a champion. Sixty-four teams is exactly the right amount (not sixty-five, mind you, nor ninety-six). What I love is that the NCAA put a priority on deciding a champion, rather than raking in as much cash as it possibly can. For instance, brackets are only announced on Sunday before games occur on Thursday/Friday — this makes it difficult (and expensive) for fans of teams to make the trip, and no doubt the NCAA loses out. There’s no oddly-long period of time (cf. college football) between the season and post-season where fans can buy tickets, but that’s good for the teams. Because the emphasis is on the teams and deciding the champion. No Tostitos Fiesta Bowl or bowl; just regional locations with game after game at reasonable times, not spread out over many nights to maximize viewership. It’s for the love of the game, and that’s why I love it.

I’m starting to wax poetic here, but stay with me. I love the diversity of the NCAA tournament; Ohio State University is on even ground with Murray State University. It teaches us that, even if we haven’t heard of UTEP or Brigham Young or Cornell, people can seriously ball everywhere. Nowhere is there such even ground between some entity so well-known, and another so not-well-known. March madness is a great lesson in diversity, geography, and (hopefully) empathy.

Cue up “One Shining Moment”, folks. It’s on.

97% Accuracy is Nothing to Brag About

March 14, 2010 4:26 pm by Big Willie Style

Joe Lunardi, a genious? ESPN is promoting him for having 97% accuracy on his predictions as to who makes the tournament and who doesn’t. I think this is completely ridiculous. 97% means he misses approximately 1 or 2 each year. This is something pretty much any fan of college basketball can do. In reality, about 61 or 62 of the 65 teams are gimmies every year. Joe Lunardi is choosing between just a few teams. If he’s actually the best in the business, then I want to see his percentage of accuracy in those final few teams. So don’t let that 97% fool you. To show you how easy it is to get 97%, my list is below:

America East – Vermont
Big Sky – Montana
Atlantic Sun – E Tenn State
Big South – Winthrop
Big West – UC Santa Barbara
Colonial – Old Dominion
Horizon – Butler
Ivy – Cornell
MAAC – Siena
MAC – Ohio
MEAC – Morgan State
Missouri Valley – No Iowa
Northeast – Robert Morris
Ohio Valley – Murray State
Patriot – Lehigh
Southern – Wofford
Southland – Sam Houston
Summit – Oakland
Sun Belt –North Texas
SWAC – UA Pine Bluff

ACC – Duke, Maryland, Clemson, Ga Tech, Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech
Atlantic 10 – Temple, Xavier, Richmond
Big East – West Virginia, Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Notre Dame, Louisville
Big 10 – Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, Wisconsin
Big 12 – Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri
Conference USA – Houston, UTEP
Mountain West – San Diego State, New Mexico, BYU, UNLV
Pac 10 – Washington, California
SEC – Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State
WAC – New Mexico State, Utah State
West Coast – St Marys, Gonzaga