18 March 2014

Pot odds testing the bracket field

I tend to wait a day or two to fill out the brackets now, to let the public's biases become apparent and go against them for some leverage. Some obvious trends have emerged already however because of the increasing reliance of the public on major media outlets providing analysis (or "analysis", depending).

1) Michigan St has somehow become the second favorite team to win the thing. While I think they may be the best and favorite team in that region (a case can be made for Villanova, but not Virginia), they're a 4 seed. 4 seeds have a lot of trouble to go to to win (namely, 1,2,3 seeds, and 5 seeds in the second round). Louisville has the same problem with an even more loaded region.

2) Florida is way overvalued as the favorite currently. I do not like how little they score (or rather how slow they play).

3) Villanova is easily the best dark horse to take. Only about 1% have them winning it right now and they're actually the only team that meets all the metrics for championship potential (Louisville played a crap schedule, Arizona's offense tailed off with Ashley out, Kansas's defence tailed off with Embid out, Florida and Virginia won't score enough, Duke and Creighton can't play defence). Even just to advance them to the Final 4 right now is immensely valuable as Michigan St is just such a hot commodity.

General rules of thumb I apply. These are also mythbusters, since everyone will say the opposite is true for the next 3 weeks in commentary.
1) Defence is good. Offense is better. If a team cannot score, or plays too slow, they have no chance to advance deep (I'm looking at you Virginia or Syracuse, and historically Wisconsin). A minimum level of defensive competency is required to make deep runs. But after that, scoring nearly always wins.

2) Good bigs are better than guards. The reason should be obvious: good forwards and centers in all levels of basketball are hard to find, and they often leave college sooner to get paid. So if a team has good size, chances are they have the most talent (see: Kentucky or Kansas).

3) Teams that win their conference tournament, particularly unexpectedly (which would be teams in the 3-6 range seed wise), do not usually fair well. That would be UCLA and Iowa St especially, possibly Michigan State. Lower seeds like Providence or St Joe's sometimes are peaking.

4) Age is not just a number. See #2. If a team has a bunch of seniors in the era of one and done players, they're not as talented. That's why they're still there. These teams can pull upsets, but they are unlikely to do well as favorites by advancing deep.

5) Don't take Kansas. Or Duke. Kansas isn't a general rule against Kansas, their problem is they played the toughest schedule in the country. Those teams are always burned out. Duke's problem also isn't that they're Duke, it's that they're bad defensively.

By region
West
Arizona looks like the favorite to come out of here even with the injuries. This is a pretty weak region other than Wisconsin and Arizona's defense is very, very good.

Wisconsin has a favorable draw. Oregon usually underachieves, BYU has a key player out for the season, Creighton can't play defence. This would be the best darkhorse to go with from the region.

Creighton may have the best offence in the country but their defence is weak, and they have to get by Baylor playing in San Antonio. They've also struggled a bit on the road (all of their losses have come that way).

San Diego State can't score. That will be a problem if they get Oklahoma in the second round. It might even be a problem against New Mexico St in the first round.

I don't understand the public fascination with Oklahoma State over Gonzaga (they should be favored, but not by a huge margin, they have problems on the road too). Both should lose to Arizona so it's probably irrelevant. Both were underseeded, not just Oklahoma State so it's actually very even.

Nebraska as an 11 upset over Baylor (again, playing in San Antonio) doesn't make any sense to me. Nebraska is by far the worst 11 seed to look at as an upset pick, and other than Ohio State, Baylor may be the best 6. The one that looks more dangerous in round 1 is North Dakota St over Oklahoma, followed by NMSU vs SDSU. Baylor looks like a good upset pick in round 2.

South
Florida looks fine as a favorite to advance here. Again, it's a middling region, and again, Florida has a good defence. Their toughest games may be the second and third round matchups (Pitt and VCU).

Kansas would be my favorite to advance if Embid was healthy and likely to play. Their defence will not be very good without him. That may not matter much as nobody has a good offence on their half of the bracket. It might matter against Florida. It would definitely matter after that.

Syracuse was overrated almost the entire year. They may have trouble with Ohio State's defence as they're another team that can't score (both are). Ohio St is not a very high pick to advance past Cuse, so it's a good one to run with. The risk is Dayton could upset them as they have a weak offense.

UCLA is my pick for a major seed upset in the first round here. They have a terrible tournament coach (Steve Alford), they're guard heavy, and they won a conference tournament they weren't supposed to win. Tulsa's okay as an underdog and not many people seem to be taking them. Regardless, I'd take VCU over UCLA in under two seconds in the second round. This also isn't the method most have used, so there's some gain to be had there too.

The public seems to have figured out that Colorado was overseeded with the major injury to Dinwiddie and being a middling road team. Pitt's also pretty good for a 9 seed. Since I agree with them here, I'm fine with taking the 9 anyway. There's some justification for taking Pitt again over Florida if you're really in a mood, but not much.

Midwest
Louisville is the presumptive favorite here as a 4 seed. Michigan might be a little undersold though in favor of Duke (for some reason). I'm tempted to take them as a result.

Wichita has no favors in a stacked region. They have a potential matchup with Kentucky, then Louisville, then Michigan or Duke. Two of those are better teams, one is pretty even, and one is pretty close.

Michigan may have a pretty easy path, but it's not a gimme. Texas is pretty big in round two and they're a little undersized. Louisville beat them last year and didn't lose as much to the NBA (Burke and Hardaway are clearly better than Dieng and Siva were).

Duke's problems will be whatever matchup they get in round 2. Tennessee and Iowa are both very good offensive teams that will score, and Tennessee has a good defence to boot. Neither should have been in the play-in round (except that the committee still uses the RPI). They're potentially better than even the 5th seed in this region, much less UMass.

I'd say between UMass and St Louis, take the play-in winners against both. Both are fairly lowly regarded by the public as potential upsets, but not enough so.

East
Villanova is down here as my dark horse candidate. Michigan St is also down here as the public's dark horse candidate. Both should be better than Virginia. This is actually a surprisingly stacked region as a result. One of the reasons: almost everyone in it is good on the road, with the possible exceptions of UNC and Memphis.

Virginia should be fine until the 3rd or 4th round. Memphis or George Washington are not much competition. Michigan State and maybe Cincinnati would be.

Nova does have UConn down there with them, and potentially Iowa St or North Carolina. They have a much less favorable path would be the only reason to go against them.

Iowa St fits my usual routine of going against teams that unexpectedly won conference tournaments. They've also got a solid 14 in round one. I wouldn't expect them to lose that game (though I would more than the public does), but both Providence and UNC may be trouble, especially UNC.

Cincinnati looks like an upset watch against Harvard. Ditto Carolina and Providence.

Take George Washington for the pot odds against Memphis. Memphis is favored enough to swing things that way.
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