Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Final Four Values

The running narrative for the NCAA this season has been all about the parity at the top. Yet here we are in mid March and despite "the field being wide open", everyone is taking Louisville. Now I'm not saying this is a bad idea. Louisville may end up cutting down the nets in Atlanta. However, by picking Louisville you are forcing yourself to have a "near" perfect bracket in order to win your pool. In a standard scoring system, you generally have to get the national champion right to win it all (with an example of an exception being if Butler had won). If you are one of the few people in your pool to take a unique team to win it all, you don't have to be all that great with your earlier picks. With Louisville, however, you're going to have to somehow pick up points on other people with Louisville.

On ESPN, you can currently look at the percentage of people in the country taking any team to reach any round. I thought it would be interesting to compare the average person's picks to Ken Pomeroy's log 5 projections. This will help determining the "value" of final four picks. If a team's value is especially high, it might be worth it to take the gamble in order to attempt to position yourself better among other Louisville brackets. Obviously the log 5 projections aren't perfect. Thus, I decided to include the Vegas odds that each team reaches the final four in the table too. The Vegas odds weren't actually used in finding value teams, but they can either reinforce (or not) the log 5 rankings.

The DIFF column on the right is simply (log 5 final four%) - (ESPN final four%). The thing that jumps out is the "Florida Effect". Not only does Florida shatter the top spot for best value, but they also turn Georgetown and Kansas into bad values. There's a whole bunch of uncertainty surrounding the Gators, but if you trust log 5 (and Vegas) they are nearly a must in your bracket. Miami and Ohio State are the other two that stand out. The conference tournaments have a ridiculous amount of pull on ESPN brackets, or so it seems. Ohio State, Miami, Kansas, and Louisville are all in the top five most picked final four teams (with Indiana) and are coming off conference tournament championships. Syracuse has struggled, but they seem like a much better alternative to Indiana in the East than Miami. Finally, if you decide to go with Pitt in your final four, log 5 says you have an 11.7% chance of taking a commanding lead in your pool.

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