NCAA Tournament Chat: Dissecting the Bracket for Fun and Profit

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterMarch 14, 2012

Today is a two-part show, first with Eamonn Brennan from ESPN.com's College Basketball Nation and second with Paul Bessire from PredictionMachine.com.

Yes, we talk a lot about the NCAA Tournament, the overall bracket and what teams you should be picking in each region. You're welcome, America.

Subscribe to the Wide Left podcast in iTunes here.

Brennan and I talk more about the storylines surrounding the tournament, spending a large part of our conversation on the sudden ineligibility of Fab Melo and what this means for Syracuse's chances in the tournament.

The Melo news leads to a lot of questions, like when Syracuse knew this was coming down and how it could possibly happen at a place with such deep academic resources. We also talk about what it means for the Orange on the court, and if the smart tournament value suddenly goes more toward Syracuse with so many jumping ship in the second or third rounds.

We touch on some of the trendy picks in the ESPN.com Bracket Challenge early returns, including Florida State making the Final Four (something even trendier now that Syracuse is depleted in the top half of the region) and Florida potentially upsetting Missouri in the second (third) round. 

We then discuss some of the storylines and intriguing match-ups we'll see in the first week. Brennan is high on Creighton's Doug McDermott becoming a household name this weekend and, like many of us, hopes for a second (third) round game between Kentucky and Connecticut which obviously would include John Calipari facing off against Jim Calhoun in a coaching battle the world, frankly, deserves to see. 

Brennan and I also talk about whether you should have one true bracket or diversify your interest with multiple brackets. I promise we don't get all Mike and Mike on you.

The second half of the show is more about the science and statistics of the bracket, as Bessire and I walk through the results of PredictionMachine.com's algorithm that runs the tournament 50,000 times before spitting out what teams are most likely to win each game.

Their bracket is close to chalk, with two teams from the one line and two from the two line making the Final Four. Bessire had Ohio State out of the East before the Melo news and obviously that hasn't changed (we taped our segment before the Melo news came out). 

The odds are with Kentucky, winning the National Championship in 21.4 percent of all tournaments they ran. There are few upsets–a couple of 8-9 games and a few 4-5 games–but the draw is pretty close to chalk until you get to the Elite Eight. We talk about potential value in some of the sleeper picks that aren't favored but have better odds than others. Bessire pointed to Belmont over Georgetown as a game that could be trending higher toward an upset than others. If you're looking for a sensible first round shocker (if there is such a thing) that might be the place.

Speaking of upsets, per the Prediction Machine rankings, Wichita State actually wins the tournament more often than Duke. Neither team has a great shot at winning (2.2 percent to 1.6 percent) but for a team that's on the five-seed line potentially facing Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen to have a better chance of winning the title than second-seeded Duke is pretty telling of Duke's chances. 

We do get a little into the history of the tournament and wonder how much the selection committee tinkers with the bracket in an effort to perpetuate certain seeds upsetting others. Do some teams get the 12 line because they have the best chance of an upset? And why is Memphis so under-seeded in this tournament? 

If you're having trouble filling out your bracket, this has to help. It's science after all. Of course, throwing darts could work just as well, too. That's the beauty of the tournament.

Enjoy the show, the hoops talk and the games this week.

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