Raymond’s highly scientific predictions for the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament


Once again, it's time for Raymond to come up with an absurd, arbitrary criterion for filling out his NCAA bracket.

This year, I look at the strength of the school's football team, on the theory that a school with a strong football team and a strong basketball team has clearly invested a lot in its athletics program. My ranking of football teams is about as scientific as my ranking of basketball teams:

  • If the school ended last season with a BCS ranking, I used that.
  • If a school wasn't ranked but received votes in the AP ranking, then I gave it a rank of 30 (and if two such schools faced each other, I looked at who got more votes).
  • If a school still isn't ranked, then I looked to see if it had been ranked at any time earlier in the season; if so, then I gave it a rank of 40.
  • If a school still isn't ranked, but it appeared on the equally-scientific ESPN Fan Rankings, then I gave it a rank of 50.
  • If a school still isn't ranked, but it has a Division I FBS football team, then I gave it a rank of 80. If two such schools faced each other, then I gave what appeared to be the weaker school a rank of 90.
  • If a school still isn't ranked, but it has a Division I FCS football team, then I gave it a rank of 100. If two such schools faced each other, then I gave what appeared to be the weaker schools a rank of 101. (Why 101 instead of 110? Who cares!)
  • If a school still isn't ranked, but it has a football team in some other division, then I gave it a rank of 150.
  • If a school still isn't ranked because its football team is new, then I gave it a rank of 200.
  • If a school still isn't ranked because it doesn't have a football team, but it had one in the past, then I gave it a rank of 300.
  • If a school still isn't ranked because it never had a football team, then I gave it a rank of 400.

(As a special case, USC received its rank of 22 from two years ago, because it was forced to sit out the 2010 season as part of its punishment for "several major rules violations." Now that's what I call dedication to athletics!)

I made up all these rules on the fly, which is why the spacing is so uneven and why they were not necessarily applied fairly across the board, but that's what makes it highly scientific.

As before, once the field has been narrowed to eight teams, the results are determined by a coin flip.

Update:

  • Correct predictions are in green.
  • Incorrect predictions are in red.
  • (!) marks upsets correctly predicted.
  • (*) marks upsets predicted but did not take place.
  • (x) marks actual upsets not predicted.

Opening Round Games

Texas-San Antonio (200) Alabama State
(80)
Alabama State (80)
UAB (90) Clemson
(80)
Clemson (80)
UNC-Asheville (400) Arkansas-Little Rock
(300)
Arkansas-Little Rock (300)
USC (22*) USC
(22*)
VCU (400)

East bracket

1 Ohio State (6) Ohio State
(6)
Ohio State
(6)
Ohio State Ohio State
16 Alabama State (80)
8 George Mason (400) Villanova
(100) (*)
9 Villanova (100)
5 Kentucky (80) Kentucky
(80)
West Virginia
(30) (*)
12 Princeton (100)
4 West Virginia (30) West Virginia
(30)
13 Clemson (80)
6 Syracuse (80) Syracuse
(80)
Syracuse
(80) (x)
Washington
11 Indiana State (90)
3 Xavier (300) Xavier
(300) (x)
14 Marquette (310)
7 Washington (30) Washington
(30)
Washington
(30)
10 Georgia (50)
2 North Carolina (50) North Carolina
(50)
15 Long Island (400)

West bracket

1 Duke (90) Duke
(90)
Michigan
(80) (x)
Arizona Arizona
16 Hampton (100)
8 Michigan (80) Michigan
(80)
9 Tennessee (90)
5 Texas (40) Texas
(40)
Arizona
(40)
12 Oakland (400)
4 Arizona (40) Arizona
(40)
13 Memphis (80)
6 Connecticut (30) Connecticut
(30)
Missouri
(12) (*)
Missouri
11 Bucknell (100)
3 Cincinnati (80) Missouri
(12) (*)
14 Missouri (12)
7 Temple (80) Penn State
(40) (*)
San Diego State
(30)
10 Penn State (40)
2 San Diego State (30) San Diego State
(30)
15 Northern Colorado (200)

Southeast bracket

1 Pittsburgh (80) Pittsburgh
(80)
Pittsburgh
(80) (x)
Wisconsin Michigan State
16 Arkansas-Little Rock (300)
8 Butler (100) Butler
(100)
9 Old Dominion (101)
5 Wisconsin (4) Wisconsin
(4)
Wisconsin
(4)
12 Belmont (150)
4 Kansas State (40) Kansas State
(40)
13 Utah State (80)
6 BYU (39) BYU
(39)
BYU
(39)
Michigan State
11 Wofford (100)
3 St. John's (200) St. John's
(200) (x)
14 Gonzaga (300)
7 UCLA (80) Michigan State
(7) (*)
Michigan State
(7)
10 Michigan State (7)
2 Florida (30) Florida
(30)
15 UCSB (400)

Southwest bracket

1 Kansas (90) Kansas
(90)
Illinois
(80) (*)
Illinois Texas A&M
16 Boston University (300)
8 UNLV (90) Illinois
(80) (!)
9 Illinois (80)
5 Louisville (82) Louisville
(82) (x)
Louisville
(82)
12 Morehead State (100)
4 Vanderbilt (90) Vanderbilt
(90) (x)
13 Richmond (91)
6 Purdue (90) Purdue
(90)
USC
(22*)
Texas A&M
11 Saint Peter's (300)
3 Georgetown (100) USC
(22*)
14 USC (22*)
7 Texas A&M (18) Texas A&M
(18) (x)
Texas A&M
(18)
10 Florida State (23)
2 Notre Dame (30) Notre Dame
(30)
15 Akron (80)

Finals

Ohio State Ohio State Michigan State
Arizona
Michigan State Michigan State
Texas A&M
Comments (28)
  1. John says:

    So how accurate have your methods been the past couple of years?  I've got to say this is one of the worst looking brackets I've ever seen :)

    [You can look at previous years' brackets and see for yourself. I even went to the effort of color-coding them. -Raymond]
  2. Wyatt says:

    I would have ranked them the opposite, on the theory that they spent all their money on football and had nothing left for anything else.

  3. Gabe says:

    I'm rather surprised that so many schools with top basketball teams have no football teams.

  4. Alas, Title IX wreaks havoc with your assumptions.

  5. You have UCSB scored at 400 but it had a football team as recently as 1987. The highlight of UCSB football was probably the 1965 Camellia Bowl appearance:

    ucsbgauchos.cstv.com/…/032307aaf.html

    [Fortunately, (1) it doesn't affect the outcome, and (2) I don't care. -Raymond]
  6. Mason Wheeler says:

    For the college basketball-challenged among us, could someone explain how we ended up with geographical absurdities such as schools from California and Utah being placed in the Southeast bracket?

    [Somebody asks this question every year; I need to add it to the boilerplate even though it has nothing to do with filling out brackets. The bracket name describes where the tournament games are played, not where the schools are from. -Raymond]
  7. Interesting that none of the top three football teams' universities appear to have made it to the basketball tournament (looks like Auburn, Oregon, and TCU.)

  8. John says:

    [The bracket name describes where the tournament games are played, not where the schools are from. -Raymond]

    Even that is not quite right, as you have opening round games in Denver for the Southeast division and Washington, D.C. for the West division.

    [Feel free to file a complaint with the NCAA. -Raymond]
  9. John says:

    Your only decent year was 2008.  In 5 years you've only correctly predicted one Final Four participant.  I don't think your method is any better than choosing names at random.  But at least it is highly scientific, I guess.

  10. Timothy Byrd says:

    The real question is what kind of programming Raymond did for this highly scientific endeavour.

    Because garbage data has to pass through the bowels of a computer to be really gold-plated.

  11. Jim Glass Jr says:

    blogs.msdn.com/…/searchresults.aspx gets you to the previous guesses. Not even 50% across the years, if I'm not mistaken.  :O)

  12. Klimax says:

    @John:

    Do you think Raymond cares?

    Do you think Raymond is serious?

  13. John says:

    @Kilmax:  Obviously he cares and is serious – he used italics.

  14. Brian Marshall says:

    #John: To be fair, Raymond never claimed that his method is scientific, relevant, or correct. Only that it is "abusrd" and "arbitrary". And I believe, Raymond, that you have succeeded on both counts.

  15. John says:

    He claimed that his method is (highly) scientific.  I'm not arguing whether it is or isn't, just that the claim was made.

  16. @ Jim Glass MSFT

    You can also click on the "highly scientific" tag.

    blogs.msdn.com/…/Highly+scientific

    [To be fair, I added that tag just now. -Raymond]
  17. @John

    The names come from where the Regional semifinals and finals (third and fourth rounds) take place:

    East Regional – Newark, New Jersey

    West Regional – Anaheim, California

    Southeast Regional – New Orleans, Louisiana

    Southwest Regional – San Antonio, Texas

  18. J. Daniel Smith says:

    "absurd, arbitrary" or not, GO GREEN!

  19. J. Daniel Smith says:

    "absurd, arbitrary" or not, GO GREEN!

  20. Gabe says:

    Brian: Raymond not only claimed that his method is scientific, but *highly* scientific. It's right there in the title! And later on he put it in italics, so you know it's true.

  21. Brad Bellomo says:

    Absolutely absurd, unfair and unscientific!  By your own rules, Ohio State wins, but you gave Michigan the victory!

    [As noted, once the field has narrowed to 8 teams, the winners are chosen by coin flip. Besides, Ohio State would have lost to Wisconsin. -Raymond]
  22. Single-elimination tournaments kind of bug me.  If we assume the four best teams are randomly distributed among the original contestants, it's rare that the final four will consist of the four best teams.

    I'd like to see a Swiss system instead, with a smaller set of initial entrants.

    [A Swiss tournament? What next, the metric system? -Raymond]
  23. Gabe says:

    The Wikipedia page on the Swiss system says "An elimination tournament is better suited to a situation in which only a limited number of games may be played at once". I can't imagine how you would run a Swiss-style basketball tournament where teams come from all over the country and each city only has one court.

    The great thing about a single-elimination tournament, though, is all those great powers of 2! Whomever decided to screw things up by adding those 4 first-round games was obviously not a programmer.

  24. Adam V says:

    Texas and Arizona are tied at 40 in the second round. Did you decide them by a coin flip as well? (If so, bad luck for my Longhorns – a win could have had them coin-flipping for the title!)

    [As I vaguely recall, Arizona did better earlier in the season. Or it could just be a highly scientific mistake. -Raymond]
  25. Indeed, the potential downsides to Swiss are:

    1) Lots more games: (for n entrants, instead of O(n) games, you now have O(n^2) games.)

    2) Cannot be caught: sometimes the champion is determined before the final round.

    I don't know enough about the NCAA economics to know whether more games vs. fewer is a plus or a minus for the NCAA.

    From a fan's perspective, the biggest advantage of the Swiss system is the increased correlation between team merit and final standings.  In a single-elimination tournament there isn't a good way to tell which of the teams that fell against the eventual winner was really "second best."

    From a player's perspective, the biggest advantage of the Swiss system is that you're guaranteed to get to play O(n) games.  In single elimination tournaments, your expected number of games is only 2 – (2/n).

  26. Gah I should learn math.

    for n entrants, instead of O(n) games, you now have O(n^2) games.)

    should be: for n entrants, instead of O(n) games, you now have O(n log n) games.

    you're guaranteed to get to play O(n) games

    should be: you're guaranteed to get to play O(log n) games

  27. Scott says:

    "In 5 years you've only correctly predicted one Final Four participant.  I don't think your method is any better than choosing names at random."

    Given that it is essentially random, that is surprisingly bad.

  28. > In five years you've only correctly predicted one Final Four participant

    > Given that it is essentially random, that is surprisingly bad

    Just for fun I decided to probe these statements.

    Assumptions:

    * in each year there are four brackets.  Each bracket has seventeen teams – a "first round" game and fifteen seeded teams.  (This is not quite correct – for example, this year there are two "East" first round games and no "West" first round games.)

    * we're abandoning science, absurdity, and arbitrariness and going with pure chance to pick the sole representative of each quarter-bracket that will play in the Final Four for that year.

    We wish to determine how accurate "pure chance" is expected to be over five years.

    What we have here is a bunch of independent identically distributed (IID) Bernoulli(1/17) random variables.  In each quarter bracket there is a 1/17 probability of picking the right Final Four representative, and a 16/17 probability of getting it wrong.

    Over five years there are 20 of these random variables.

    What is the probability of exactly one of them turning up "correct" and the other nineteen turning up "incorrect?"

    The general question is, "given n Bernoulli(p) IID variables, what is the probability of exactly m of them (0 <= m <= n) taking value 1?"

    The answer in general: (n choose m) * p^m * (1-p)^(n-m).

    In the specific instance of this post:

    0 0.297454967

    1 0.371818709

    2 0.220767358

    3 0.082787759

    4 0.021990499

    5 0.0043981

    6 0.000687203

    0 0.297454967

    1 0.371818709

    2 0.220767358

    3 0.082787759

    4 0.021990499

    5 0.0043981

    6 0.000687203

    7 8.59004E-05

    8 8.72426E-06

    9 7.27021E-07

    10 4.99827E-08

    11 2.83993E-09

    12 1.33122E-10

    13 5.12006E-12

    14 1.60002E-13

    15 4.00005E-15

    16 7.81259E-17

    17 1.14891E-18

    18 1.19678E-20

    19 7.87357E-23

    20 2.46049E-25

    Conclusion: actually, the single most likely number of Final Four representatives to choose correctly over five years is, indeed, one.

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