If you haven’t filled out your March Madness bracket yet, you may want to look above for inspiration. (Click image for a high resolution version.)
That bracket is made by the
The STATS bracket is based on a number of factors, including an extensive breakdown of scores from every game in every conference throughout the NCAA basketball season. The model also takes into account strength of schedule: a team with a perfect record against weak opposition still stands little chance against even a “mediocre” team in a conference like the Big 12.
“What we’re trying to get at is the raw talent level of each team,” said Sean Koerner, director of the predictive analytics team (pictured right). “Even if you have two teams that didn’t play any common opponents, you can link them up by having secondary opponents and seeing how they fared.”
After the initial calculations are made, the team looks through their model’s projection to adjust for developments that may not have been properly captured by the data — like recent performance.
“We know the right level of ‘hot’ a team needs to be going into the tournament — that’s a huge deal,” said Koerner, adding that recent injuries are another factor that requires model adjustments. “Michigan is going to be out with a couple of their star players, so the raw data is going to leave them looking a little better than they really are.”
A veteran of the Las Vegas sportsbook industry, Koerner honed his prediction skills with his employers’ money on the line. He was FantasyPros.com’s most accurate expert predictor in last year’s NFL season, and has the highest combined accuracy rate among experts over the past three years.
Some of his team’s projections buck the conventional wisdom. STATS’ bracket favors Kentucky — a fourth seed — against number one seed University of North Carolina in the East Region semifinals. According to Koerner, Kentucky’s relative lack of experience playing together as a team hurt its performance in the beginning of the season, but the team has been coming together nicely leading up to the tournament.
Koerner also warns fans to be on the lookout for the South Region, whose teams have pretty consistently outperformed their similarly seeded counterparts from other regions this season.
Before you bet your savings on the STATS bracket, however, keep in mind that a statistics-based bracket like this by definition can’t account for major upsets — which happen pretty much every year. Koerner, for one, does not expect to win the brackets he’s competing in.
“It’s funny, because it seems like sometimes the more you know sometimes, the more of a conservative bracket you tend to make, which kind of hurts you in the end if you’re in a big office pool,” said Koerner. “It’s good to have some of those edgier, riskier picks.”
STATS' predictions will be updated throughout the tournament. Check them out here.
Images via STATS.