Welcome to First and Fan and BracketBluster!
In this column, we have a simple premise: Use data to anticipate the bracket of the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament. We take the emotion and the eye test out of the selection process, but as you will see, the results will stir quite a bit of emotion and bluster, which we love! Starting in January, we will update the bracket each week (more often as Selection Sunday approaches), look at trends and share some insight into the process.
First a little about the BracketBluster methodology. We pull data from several data collection sites, such as KenPom. Each year a new formula is devised such that if you applied the formula to last year’s data, you would have a close approximation of last year’s bracket. Then we apply the new formula to current data, apply the rules of bracketology, which you can find on the NCAA’s website and produce a bracket with 32 conference winners and the next 36 highest rated teams as at-large teams.
We will always select the highest rated team in each conference as the automatic bid regardless of conference standing. In fact, history tells us that in one bid conferences, the highest rated team will win more conference tournaments than #1 seeds. In the early season, we will ignore W-L records, but as strength of schedule data matures, we will factor that in.
Determining strength of schedule is the bane of all bracketologists. It is interesting to note how different rating sites consider it. Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin start with a predetermined built in strength of schedule component which diminishes as the season progresses. The ESPN Basketball Power Index and the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index do not use any strength of schedule component. The latter gives a ratings benefit to mid-majors who schedule tough non-conference games and a penalty to Power 5 teams that schedule cupcakes. This will show through in early season brackets but will correct itself as the conference schedules impact the strength of schedule component.
We hope you will enjoy BracketBluster and First and Fan! The mind behind the madness is Matt Brown, resident Bracketologist and statistics guru!
Below is our first bracket prediction.
Let us know what you think! Leave a comment and don’t forget to share on social media!