Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bracket Advice #3: Upsets To Pick

A) Don't pick 14, 15 or 16 seeds to win a game, but keep those seeds in mind later: Even if you think that a 14 or 15 seed is going to win their game, don't pick it. The odds are just too low that you're going to be right. And should a 2 or 3 seed go down, it's going to wipe out everybody else in your pool also. The risk/reward just isn't good.

That said, don't ignore the 1/16, 2/15 and 3/14 games. One of the biggest mistakes that people do with their brackets is that they look at each match-up in a vacuum, without thinking of which match-ups happened prior. Let's say you picked the 3 and 6 seeds to both advance, and you think that the 6 seed is slightly better than the 3 seed head-to-head. But now let's say that you think the 6 seed will really struggle with the 11, while the 3 seed will have a cakewalk over the 14. If that's the case, then you should pick the 3 seed to advance. Even though you think the 6 seed is slightly better head-to-head, you need to account for the fact that the 6 seed has a very real chance of getting knocked off in the prior round. Don't allow early upsets to cascade through your bracket. You aren't going to pick all 32 games correctly in the Round of 64, but you can try to avoid losing any Sweet 16 teams.

This is a philosophy that you should hold all the way through, at every stage of the bracket. When picking a game, note whether you think one team has a much easier path to get there or not. I just emphasize it for the 2 and 3 seeds because so many people automatically advance those teams in their bracket without thinking about them at all. Those games do matter, even if you're not picking an upset.

B) Knock yourself out picking 9 & 10 seeds: First of all, picking the 9 seed isn't picking an upset at all. In the modern era, 9 seeds have beaten the 8 seeds 52.8% of the time. Picking the 10 seed is an upset, but not much of one. In the modern era, 10 seeds have beaten the 7 seeds 39.8% of the time. Most of these teams are going to get wiped out by the 1/2 seeds in the next round anyway, so there's not a lot to lose.

C) 12 seeds win as often than 11 seeds: I used to point out every year that 12 seeds win more than 11 seeds. but 11 seeds went 3-1 in the first round last year to tie up the 12 seeds. Now, both 11 and 12 seeds are 72-36 in the Round of 64 in the modern era. You have to wonder how these new "first four" games will affect that. Is it an advantage to have just won a game before taking on another team in the Round of 64?

We don't have enough of a sample size yet. Last year was the first year with the "first four". VCU got through as an 11 seed while Clemson got through as a 12. VCU beat the 6 and then went to the Final Four, while Clemson flamed out against the 12 seed. But a sample size of one doesn't really mean much.

Regardless, the point is what we already know, which is that 12 seeds win a disproportionately large number of Round of 64 games. Don't hesitate to pick one or two of those.

D) Pick major conference 11/12 seeds to win, and mid-major 5/6 seeds to lose: This is something I've talked about in years past. I don't have a big, complete objective analysis like I did for luck and home/road, and I apologize for that. Just didn't have enough time this year. But I've looked at this in the past, and I've found that 5/6/11/12 seeds from major conferences have had more success than smaller conference 5/6/11/12 seeds. 12 seeds from major conferences in particular have had tremendous success against 5 seeds from small/mid-major conferences. Last time I checked this, they actually won a majority of those games.

This year, we don't have a ton of chances to take advantage of this. The only case is in the Midwest, where #11 NC State will play #6 San Diego State, and the winner of California and USF will be a 12 seed against #5 Temple. I'm not saying you should definitely pick those upsets - I'll break down those particular games later - but it's just one more thing to keep in mind.

1 comment:

ervinsm said...

Pretty much agree on everything, but this year there is 1 14 seed that is ok to pick bc we got the weirdest 3/14 game in tournament history.

#23 Kpom Belmont vs #12 GT

This game is virtually a coinflip and both teams would be favored by bare min 3 or 4 points against NC State or SD ST. (location of game is in Columbus ohio too, so that doesnt play in much either)