Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The State of the National Bracket:
Outperforming 80 Percent of You

So it came out yesterday that only 2 out of 3.6 million brackets in ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge had the Sweet 16 in its entirety. (After the first round, not a single person could claim a "perfect bracket.")

If you used the "National Bracket" -- the aggregate opinion of every participant in the Tournament Challenge and the closest thing we have to a "Wisdom of Crowds" prediction system about the NCAA Tournament -- you would be just short of the 80th percentile overall.

That means two things: (1) You wouldn't be winning your pool (assuming you had minimal competition, like 10 people), and (2) you would be out-performing 80 percent of everyone else in your pool. All for going with the people's choices.

(The most startling was in 2006, when I tracked the National Bracket and it out-performed 90 percent of all brackets submitted.)

It's not a bad outcome, in most cases: Bragging rights over 80 percent of your competitors is pretty good, compared to the 1-in-whatever chance you have of actually winning (or even finishing ahead of the 80-percent threshold).

The National Bracket's biggest win: Picking Davidson over Gonzaga. Traditionally, there aren't many lower seeds that are picked to beat higher seeds. In this bracket, there were two: Davidson (correct) and St. Mary's (incorrect).

A notable second-round miss for the "nation" was picking 5-seed Notre Dame ahead of 4-seed Washington State; chalk that up to East Coast Bias (or Media Bias, your pick).

The National Bracket has 10 out of 16 Sweet 16 teams remaining, missing Duke and Georgetown, UConn and Pittsburgh (like most), and Clemson and Notre Dame (like some). Not bad. The National Bracket has 6 of 8 Elite Eight teams remaining.

The only problem? The N.B. has all 4 of its Final Four teams remaining, but they are the 1-seeds, and everyone knows that all four 1-seeds never make it to the Final Four.

Again, the lesson of the National Bracket is that you will outperform most competitors, but you will never be at the very top.

-- D.S.

1 comment:

Mark Edmonds said...

how many potential points remaining does the national bracket have? While I also have 440 points (like the national bracket?), I only have 920 PPR