Formula for success? We did the men’s March Madness bracket math for you

A small introduction. I’m a researcher in Sportzshala’s fantasy department, and I’ve developed a formula, abbreviated here as SOP, to make brace filling less stressful. This formula is simple at its core: measure and weigh appropriately a few statistics that turned out to be predictive in March. What spits out is both the overall winner and the predicted point difference, with my individual spread for each game.

I have been using this formula for several years, tested it even earlier and found it to be accurate. As accurate as you can hope to be for an event labeled “madness”. Last year’s tournament as a whole was wildly encouraging, despite the fact that my strongest teams lost.

If the St. Peters’ three wins last year are excluded—realizing that no one in their right mind would adjust anything based on a historic outlier—the formula would be “too heavy” for the 0.615-per-game favorites. By “too big” we mean cumulative spreads compared to actual results. That is, I made Kansas the favorite of the national championship with 7.5 points. He won by 3 points, so I was 4.5 points heavier. On the other hand, in the Final Four, I made Duke a 6.4 favorite over North Carolina and they lost by 4. So looking back, I was 10.4 too easy. Using only these two games, I ended up with a total of 5.9 points too light (10.4 points too easy and 4.5 points too heavy, so the combined result is 5.9 points too light).

Again, with no wins for St. Peter, my .615 ppg formula is too heavy for the favorites. Vegas? Their opening lines were .635 heavier. Very similar, but yes, in that sense, this formula was (slightly) better than the Smarties! I will take it.

So, these are the words behind the numbers. And now the 2023 NCAA Men’s Tournament rankings by region. The Final Four Chance is calculated by comparing my predicted spread for a given match against the historical win rate for a team with that spread in the NCAA Tournament.

Accident: My top three teams in the region are separated by a total of four positions in my overall rankings, which makes it difficult. However, I am a proponent of percentages, and in such cases I always take the path of least resistance. With three teams rated as elite, I’ll pick one for this region that (theoretically) shouldn’t see any of these strong teams before the Elite Eight. So yes, Gonzaga is my highest rated part of the grid, but that’s not why I chose her: I chose her because she will avoid UConn and Kansas until the last possible moment.

Accident: The other three regions have three (if not four or five) teams that are in my top 14 overall when it comes to March Madness profiles, but not this one. I have very few differences between Purdue and Marquette, but I have them as a separate mini-level, which is why I ended up on chalk in the elite eight. Based on my strength ranks, you can see that chalk definitely won’t determine the early rounds, but when the chips are in the middle of the table, I advance my top two. The Marquette/Purdue matchup potential would be intriguing, and I think there’s a pretty good chance that after the early chaos, we’ll end up with this exact game.

Accident: Do I really think Creighton is the best team in college basketball? No, but its profile is impressive, and numbers have withstood the smell test throughout the season. Of course, life with No. 6 is hard, and being paired with my second-best team in the region is, well, not ideal. Creighton doesn’t have much depth and that can be a problem, but for this team it means they have five good free-throw takers on the court for most of the game, which is reassuring in such close games. I love it when the Arizona/Creighton winner represents this region in the Final Four, the region that is considered the strongest in terms of average SOP rating for each team.

Accident: I like Houston. This was my pre-season pick and many of the numbers listed here include a healthy Markus Sasser (far from a given at this point) and yet I’m in seventh place. In this area! Penn State’s ceiling is terrible, as is its floor. Indiana might have the best duo. Texas is aiming for the moon. We’re philosophizing for the most part, but offensive production has a way to win this time of year, and Xavier constantly suggests it. If Sasser is wrong, then three teams from the “Big Ten” will go through the second weekend only in this region. If Sasser is wrong, then I think the Musketeers score too easily to be slowed down.

Accident: Can everyone get really funky? I think it’s possible. We have seen it all year and I expect this tournament to be the same: there is not much difference between the elite and the next level. Hell, it might not be. Considering the path and profile, you can see that I have eight teams that are best placed to qualify for the Final Four…and only two single-seeded teams in this mix. Buckle up!

Interpret the data – use it or not. Here’s how I used my data to assemble my brace. And yes, I’m a one-bracket guy, so that’s it.


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