Saturday, March 19, 2011

NCAA Tourney 2011: Nicole's Crystal Ball (Part 1)

Making picks for the NCAA men's basketball tournament has basically become a sport in and of itself.  National media outlets reserve year-round coverage for "bracketology," seemingly anyone who has ever watched a game of college basketball now writes a blog about who got robbed and how to make your bracket, and likely more people join tourney bracket groups than vote for president.  Speaking of which, the President now does an annual bracket special on ESPN and he actually went 15-1 on day 4 on Friday.

For the last two years, I have written about my wife's mystifyingly successful system for picking (she's beating me again).  It is one part basketball knowledge, 4 parts mascot death-match, 2 parts travel log, 2 parts color war, 1 part class-warfare.  But it works.  In a vain attempt to quantify this system, I humbly submit the following statistics for your consideration.  Refer to them at your own risk when filling out your bracket next March.

These statistics are from all 36 games through the first two rounds of the 2011 men's tournament (unless noted otherwise).  All results more than 1 game above or below .500 are listed.

Basketball Knowledge: Seeds, Rankings and Conferences
Better seeds went 25-7 (not including 1st round games which are between teams ranked the same)
AP Top 25 teams went 19-6 (one loss was to another Top-25 team)
ACC: 4-1
Big Ten: 5-2
Colonial: 3-1
Pac 10: 3-1
Big East: 7-4
C-USA: 0-2
Mid-Atlantic: 0-2

Mascot Death-Match
Animals: 25-20  People 9-11
Indians: 3-0  Ancient Greeks 0-3
Birds: 5-4  Cats 7-6  Dogs: 5-5
Tigers: 1-4 (0-4 in Round 2)  Wildcats: 3-1  Bulldogs: 3-2  Terriers 0-2

Travel Log: State vs. State Comparison
Florida: 2-0
Kansas: 2-0
Washington: 2-0
Indiana: 3-1
Virginia: 4-2
Alabama 0-2 (both in Round 1)
Tennessee 0-4

Color War*
Blue: 21-17
Red: 8-7
Gold: 1-3 in Round 1, 5-3 in Round 2
Orange: 2-0 in Round 1, 4-5 in Round 2
Black: 5-9
Blue/Yellow: 2-0
Blue/Red: 3-1
Blue/Gold: 5-3
Black/Gold: 3-5
Blue/Gray: 0-2
Green/White: 0-2
3 Color Schools: 3-5

*Colors are taken from schools' officially listed colors.  Shades of colors went into primary colors in most cases (crimson and cardinal are both just "red" here), unless there were enough of the alternate color to make it worth distinguishing it as its own (gold stands alone from yellow).

Class Warfare
Private schools: 8-15
Public schools: 28-21
Catholic schools: 3-5

So while all these results are preliminary and need a larger sample (i.e.: the rest of the tournament) before we can call any of it infallible and scientifically proven, some working hypotheses:

God is not a basketball fan or the Catholic schools would be doing better.  For the record, Mormons were 1-1.
Alabama and Tennessee schools should stop playing basketball and focus on other endeavors.
Utah State got the biggest screw-job of the year by earning a 12-seed and having to play against a 5-seed  ranked worse than them in the AP poll (USU: 19, Kansas St. 21)
Stricter private school academic standards seem to be outweighing their ability to allegedly bend admission rules to bring in ball players.
Black may be cool, but wear it and you lose.
"Blue" chip recruits apparently take that title to heart when choosing which jersey they'll wear.
Among pets, birds are doing slightly better than cats, with dogs bringing up the rear.  But it's a difference of only percentage points.
Wildcats are much better than Tigers.
The Big East lived up to the hype for the most part (but their 11 bids does nothing more than prove than expansion of the tournament was unnecessary - if you are 11th in your own league, do you really deserve a chance to play for a national title?)
VCU belonged.

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