It might seem unusual that I'm characterizing this as a high-risk bracket, considering it puts Ohio State and Kansas in the championship game. But this bracket strategy involves a new methodology -- and I'm always leery of labeling untried approaches as safe. Plus, going with chalk in this topsy-turvy tourney is risky in and of itself.
If you've read any of my material, you know that I evaluate teams throughout the year on key "pulse check" stats. There are certain attributes that don't bode well for a deep tourney run. For instance, teams that didn't go to the previous dance -- like Kentucky last year and North Carolina and UConn this year -- usually fall short of seed expectations. Scoring fewer than 75 points a game is another disqualifier.
|Bill Self has already coached Kansas to a national title as a No. 1 seed. (Getty Images)|
Bracket strategy: After advancing the No. 1 seeds two rounds and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds one round, I analyze the top 14 seeds based on 14 disqualifiers. Here's a quick look at the stats:
• Did they go to last year's dance? ("N" gets a disqualifier.)
• How many tourney trips has the coach made? (Should be three or more.)
• How many times has the coach been to the Elite Eight? (At least once.)
• What's their conference affiliation? (Should be a Big Six conference.)
• What's their AP rating? (Top 15 avoid a disqualifier.)
• What's their strength of schedule? (Worse than 40 is bad.)
• What's their possession-based Pythag ranking? (Should be top 15.)
• Where do they rate for offensive efficiency? (Must be 25 or better.)
• Where do they rate for defensive efficiency? (Must be 25 or better.)
• What's their point-scoring average? (Should be 75 points per game or more.)
• What's their average scoring margin? (Needs to be better than 10 points.)
• What's their field-goal percentage? (Anything lower than .450 is a warning sign.)
• What percentage of points do they get from guards? (Too reliant -- higher than 60 percent -- and they're at risk.)
• How's their current momentum? (Any team with four losses in the past 10 or two in a row gets a disqualifier.)
In all remaining matchups, I advance the team with fewer disqualifiers. When the two teams are tied, I advance the lower-seeded team on the assumption that a) any higher seed with that many disqualifiers has issues, and b) this is supposed to be a crazy dance, darn it ... so let's have at it.
From the Sweet 16 on, if the two teams are within two disqualifiers of each other, I knock off the team whose worse disqualifier yields the lowest PASE. For instance, having poor defensive efficiency numbers is a much bigger problem (-.148 PASE) than scoring fewer than 75 points a game (-.079 PASE). If two teams face each other with no disqualifiers, I eliminate the team that came closer to having one. Here's a view of the top 56 teams with their disqualifiers highlighted in red.
Some random thoughts and wild predictions about the Field of 68. Bracket overview >>
|More Bracket Science|
Bracket results: This bracket wound up chalky in the Final Four, despite some interesting findings among the disqualifiers. I was surprised to see that San Diego State had so few disqualifiers, and stunned at how strong Syracuse's numbers were -- especially compared to UConn's. (Yeah, I know, "scoreboard ..."). The strength of Washington, Gonzaga, Utah State and Belmont also surprised me.
In the end, though, it came down to all the top seeds in Houston, with Kansas taking Ohio State. Here are the round-by-round numbers
• Advance one through four seeds automatically.
• All of the five seeds advance.
• None of the six seeds advance.
• Washington, Texas A&M, Penn State and Michigan State win the 7 vs. 10 tilts.
• George Mason, Illinois, Tennessee and Butler win the 8 vs. 9 matchups.
• The top four seeds all advance with two exceptions: Washington beats North Carolina and Missouri takes down UConn.
• The picks result in three 1 vs. 3 matchups and one 1 vs. 2. The only 1 vs. 2 game pits Duke against San Diego State.
• All the top seeds advance.
• OSU beats Duke and Kansas tops Pitt.
• Rock Chalk Jayhawk!