Filling out a March Madness bracket bracket is about as time-honored a tradition as the modern iteration of the NCAA Tournament itself. And while I love filling out a bracket, there's a reason why this commercial exists:
"Sharon's Reign of Terror" is funny because "Sharon" really does win these things. How does someone who knows very little about college basketball do it? By being the beneficiary of the randomness of March Madness, which can confound even the the most ardent "expert."
In looking for a new way to add a layer of enjoyment, I stumbled on the ESPN NCAA tournament draft last year and resolved that we would engage in a similar exercise with the writers here. And we did! Here's how it turned out.
That was the draft order. (It was randomized by Mark. I swear.) We engaged in a 12-round, snake-style draft in which each person picked a participant out of the field to be a part of his "team." In order to get down to 60 teams so it was even, the 16 seeds were ineligible to be picked and the play-in contestants came in their pairs. (You didn't pick St. Mary's; you picked the St. Mary's/Middle Tennessee winner.)
Each win by a team on our "team" earns:
- 1-3 seed: 2 points
- 4-6 seed: 3 points
- 7-10 seed: 4 points
- 11-13 seed: 5 points
- 14-15 seed: 6 points
The thought was to create some incentive for picking different levels of seeds based on the risk/reward of the point values. It worked.
Here are the results of the draft.
|1||Indiana (1)||Louisville (1)||Kansas (1)||Florida (3)||Gonzaga (1)|
|2||Michigan (4)||Wisconsin (5)||Duke (2)||Miami (2)||Ohio State (2)|
|3||Syracuse (4)||Georgetown (2)||Kansas State (4)||Michigan State (3)||New Mexico (3)|
|4||Pittsburgh (8)||Creighton (7)||San Diego State (7)||Arizona (6)||Saint Louis (4)|
|5||Minnesota (11)||St. Mary's (11)||UNLV (5)||Butler (6)||VCU (5)|
|6||North Carolina (8)||Iowa State (10)||Illinois (7)||Oklahoma St. (5)||Marquette (3)|
|7||Bucknell (11)||Colorado (10)||Wichita State (9)||NC State (8)||Oklahoma (10)|
|8||Memphis (6)||Belmont (11)||Montana (13)||Notre Dame (7)||Oregon (12)|
|9||Colorado State (8)||Davidson (14)||Mississippi (12)||Missouri (9)||Villanova (9)|
|10||La Salle (13)||Akron (12)||Harvard (14)||Cincinnati (10)||California (12)|
|11||Valparaiso (14)||UCLA (6)||Temple (9)||New Mexico St. (13)||S. Dakota St. (14)|
|12||Pacific (15)||Iona (15)||Albany (15)||Florida GC (15)||NW St. (14)|
And now, a word from each writer on his team.
My goal was to get value at every stage of the draft, balancing the likelihood the team would win games with the points I would get for each win. Since so much of a team's opportunity to advance has to do with its opposition, I consulted a win expectancy table with all the teams on it to try and identify teams that had a good chance to advance relative to their seed. I started with Indiana because the Hoosiers are my favorite to win it all, and I grabbed both Michigan and Syracuse because I felt like they were underseeded at 4.
My favorite two picks are Pitt and Minnesota, two teams that I think have Sweet 16 potential who will get me a ton of points if they get there. I went against my own rule of "never pick against Butler early in the tournament" to take Bucknell, but the Bison were too good of a value there. And I was ecstatic to get Colorado State, as the Rams are perhaps my favorite team in the country to watch. Totally relentless on the glass. Just do yourself a favor and watch Pierce Hornung when a shot goes up. You can thank me later.
My key draft strategy was to avoid eight and nine seeds. No. 7s and No. 10s count for the same amount of points, and they have historically been more likely to win multiple games in the tournament. Additionally, I employed a bit of a high risk, high reward strategy by grabbing lots of double-digits seeds. If No. 11 Saint Mary's advances to the Sweet 16, I'll grab 10 points. If No. 1 Louisville wins the national title, that only nets me 12.
Before I get to my team, can I just point out the shenanigans that happened in this draft? Nusser sends out a draft order where he "randomly" gets the 2nd pick and OH WHAT A REVELATION HAPPENS when the guy who has the #1 pick (Floyd) drops out? We all saw what happened, Nusser! There's blood on your hands; HOOSIER BLOOD. That said, in the original draft, I had the #4 pick and moving up to #3 meant I crawled out of the Zag-Hole. I do appreciate that.
My strategy was pretty simple: Take the best team available with picks 1 and 2 (Kansas and Duke), pray they both make the Final Four, and load up all my other picks in the East and West brackets. I picked up a solid darkhorse in Kansas State who seems to be unbeatable to any team not named Kansas, some fan favorites in the TinkleGriz, MARSHALL HENDERSON and I also used my irrelevant pick on Albany so I'm allowed to root for the LOLDuke moment along with the rest of the country.
But I hate my bracket. I've set it up to root against my favorite team (Indiana) in nearly every round. Even if I win, I lose. This experiment has made me hate basketball. Thanks CougCenter!
Having watched considerably less college basketball this season than the other guys, I decided to rely heavily on someone much smarter than I. I expected Jeff and Craig to lean toward KenPom favorites, so I used Nate Silver's forecast.
I tried to keep it simple by favoring teams expected to advance to at least the Sweet 16. When it was my turn to pick in the first round, Gonzaga was the only No. 1 seed remaining. There was a 0.00 percent chance of me taking the Zags, so instead I opted for Florida. The Gators are also the No. 1 team on KemPom, so suck on that Nusser/Powers.
I don't have as many low seeds as the other guys, but I also didn't reach for SD State in the fourth rough *cough* nice pick Sherwood *cough*. Underrated aspect of my team? Violent mascots. Let's see a Jayhawk fight a Gator.
I'll admit: I didn't pay to close of attention to college basketball this year. Had I known we'd be doing this at the end of the season, I probably would've watch the same amount anyway.
- Overall Draft Strategy: try and think of who Craig and Nuss would want to take and then swoop those teams up before they did.
- Reason I Went With My First Pick: I picked last and everyone took the teams I wanted ahead of me so I was stuck with Gonzaga. I feel like the last guy who got to the arraigned marriage party. Now I get the broad with Mark Few's teeth in the back. Seems appropriate.
- Favorite Pick: Ohio State, I think they've got a really good chance to make an Elite 8 run.
- Who Could Make A Deep Run: South Dakota State. I have no idea why, call it a hunch. Also, the Jackrabbits. Awesome.
- Trash Talking: I was always terrible at this. Ummm.....something about your mother and her weight issues.
Handicapping The Competition
And it wouldn't be the NCAA tournament if we didn't look at some probabilities. So I'm going to use the win expectancy table put together by fellow College Basketball Prospectus author Nathan Walker to assess each team's expected chances of advancing in the tournament. Craig edges me by a hair! And we'll see if Kyle's, uh, unorthodox selection methods work out for him.
And if you want to follow along with the scores as the tournament goes along, you can do that at this spreadsheet.