Bracket predictions: The CougCenter NCAA tournament draft returns

Not content to merely watch our brackets go up in flames, we got together to add a layer of fun to our tournament-watching experience.

Whoever invented filling out brackets for the NCAA tournament is both my most and least favorite person on earth. On the one hand, trying to predict where the upsets are going to happen can be really fun.

On the other hand, the randomness of the tournament usually results in this:

That randomness drives me bananas and is the reason I now take about two minutes to fill out my bracket. I used to take days to fill it out, poring over every matchup. But it seems as if my success in the bracket is inversely proportionate to my actual knowledge about the college game, so I learned to just stop worrying about it.

There's no shame in losing to "Sharon's Reign of Terror" if you didn't really try, right?

So we authors got together last year to engage in a little different way of trying to predict the results of the NCAA tournament. We conducted a snake-style draft in which each of five players selected a "team" of tournament participants from which we would earn a variable number of points based on the team's seeding in the tournament.

I took home the title last year with 57 points, followed by Kyle Sherwood with 49, Mark Sandritter and Michael Preston with 35 each, and Craig Powers brought up the rear with 20 points. A stunning nine of Craig's 12 teams were eliminated in the first round. He did pick the champ, correctly, though!

Without further ado, here's how this year's turned out.

The Players

In the order of drafting - you'll notice we landed a guest player this year!

  1. Craig Powers
  2. Jeff Nusser
  3. Kyle Sherwood
  4. Mark Sandritter
  5. Jacob Thorpe, WSU beat writer at The Spokesman-Review

CAN JACOB UPHOLD THE HONOR OF "REAL" JOURNALISTS EVERYWHERE BY PUTTING A BUNCH OF BLOGGERS IN THEIR PLACE???

Scoring

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

This creates incentive for picking different levels of seeds based on the risk/reward of the point values. As you will see, it resulted in some differing strategy on which teams to select.

Teams

Pick Craig Jeff Kyle Mark Jacob
1 Louisville (4) Arizona (1) Virginia (1) Florida (1) Creighton (3)
2 Kansas (2) Iowa/Tenn. (11) San Diego St. (4) Michigan State (4) Kentucky (8)
3 Harvard (12) UCLA (4) Duke (3) VCU (5) Villanova (2)
4 UConn (7) New Mexico (7) Gonzaga (8) Ohio State (6) New Mexico State (13)
5 Wichita State (1) Wisconsin (2) Oregon (7) Oklahoma St. (9) SF Austin (12)
6 Pitt (8) Syracuse (3) Saint Louis (5) Michigan (2) North Carolina (6)
7 Iowa State (3) Cincinnati (5) Oklahoma (5) Baylor (6) Arizona State (10)
8 Dayton (11) NC State (12) S. Dakota St. (12) Texas (7) Memphis (8)
9 G. Washington (9) Providence (11) BYU (10) Stanford (10) Tulsa (13)
10 UMass (6) Kansas State (9) Nebraska (11) St. Joseph's (10) Colorado (8)
11 Mercer (14) Milwaukee (15) Louisiana-La (14) Manhattan (13) Western Michigan (14)
12 Wofford (15) E. Kentucky (15) American (15) Delaware (13) NC Central (14)

Yep, that's Craig with the bold -- or maybe not so bold, we'll see -- first pick. Here are some thoughts from each on their team. If you're interested in following along with the results, you can do so at this spreadsheet. You also can see last year's results by clicking on the 2013 tab.

Craig

The draft started out with good intentions for me, but that was quickly derailed as a I left my house to take my girlfriend's visiting dad and brother on a brewery/cidery tour. By the end, I had tried many different beverages and my focus on "expected points" had waned.

I am happy with my Louisville selection. The Cardinals were underseeded, meaning their wins are worth a point extra. Plus, Rick Pitino's squad posted six of the eight wins my group put together last year, so I felt it was my duty to go ride with them again. This will of course mean Louisville gets upset in the first round.

Jeff

Since I was successful last year, I didn't really change up my strategy at all. I consulted a win expectancy table to try and get a gauge on how many wins I might be able to expect to get out of each team and tried to identify value picks throughout. My first pick was easy -- I think the Wildcats are going to win it all, and I'm looking forward to having a rooting interest in their success. The second pick might seem a bit odd, but most of the teams I thought had a very good chance of a deep run had been selected, so I figured I'd go straight for value -- most metrics peg the Vols as a stronger team than UMass.

Value picks that I like? I thought Syracuse and Wisconsin were undervalued by my counterparts, as I think both have the potential to win a few games. Remember, the Orange were the No. 1 team for much of the season, and Wisconsin's bad tournament luck can't continue forever. (Or can it?) Also keep an eye on Milwaukee -- that's a Horizon league team that is incredibly well coached and twice knocked off a Green Bay that would have been a trendy upset pick in this tournament had it won the league's auto bid. I actually was tempted to select them sooner.

Kyle

As the wise old sage Dark Helmet once said: "So Lonestar, now you see why evil will always triumph: because good is dumb."

Truer words never spoken.

While the rest of you prayed to your God, Ken Pomeroy (or whatever sort of kitten sacrifices they have going on at the Spokesman) to save you, I found value in taking all the teams you refuse to support. Do you know how many of our members wanted to read any of you write about how conflicted you are because you're "forced" to root for Tony Bennett? None of them. So I took Virginia off the board. Same for those Thames widows that are convinced Bone shoved him out the door, suitcase in hand, when all poor "X" really wanted was to win a Natty with the Cougs. Took the Aztecs off your hands, too! I even went the full Lancona and took the Billikens off the board, too. Oh, you can't bear to root for Duke, Gonzaga or Oregon? Mine, mine and mine! Are you old school and still hold a resentment over Oklahoma stealing Kelvin Sampson? MY SEVENTH ROUND PICK. I even rounded things out by volunteering to take American. Wait, American isn't evil, is it? Well if they go to the Sweet 16 and your Facebook feed is swamped with stupid "America....F*** YEAH!" posts, you're gonna hate life. So, they're mine too.

So join me and embrace your inner Cobra Commander. I've hijacked the controls off this game and have given you the villain you crave to root for against these four masses of vanilla. Dark Helmet compels you!

Mark

I put quite a bit of thought into my strategy last year. I collected data from Ken Pomeroy, Nate Silver and others, combining it into a fancy spreadsheet. What did that get me? Bupkis. I mixed things up this year, building my picks around teams who were highly ranked at some point during the season. Many of my teams didn't play up to their talent level during the course of the season, but now they only need to play up to that level for a few games for it to pay off. Although Oklahoma State didn't have a very good season, it was ranked in the top 10 through January. Of my team, Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, VCU, Michigan and Baylor were all ranked in the top 10 at some point. I'm banking on at least a couple of them playing like a top 10 team in the tournament.

Jacob

In order to defeat stat man Jeff Nusser and his band of merry number-crunches I knew I'd have to dance with the traditional reporter's (and mine since freshman year) most ancient and untrusted foe: math. First, I filled out a bracket as you, I, and every other person either of us have ever met is wont to do.

With this illuminating document in hand I used the powers of that mysterious and accursed math to discern just how many points each team would win given this contests' parameters if my bracket played out correctly.

Since I filled out my bracket perfectly (you can mail the check to the S-R's office, Warren) I knew this plan had zero risk. I also knew that there were a few select teams - Louisville, Arizona, Florida - that would be kingmakers in this game.

Craaaaaaaaaaaaap.

With the final pick in the first round I took Creighton, because I think they can make a run of it even if they are a 3 seed, the worst seed in this game. Then I took Kentucky because Bill Moos told us that recruiting is more important than coaching. Then, other teams.

If I win then a job with Nate Silver surely awaits. If I lose then I was right when I told my algebra teachers that I would never use this stuff all those years ago.

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