NCAA 2013 Sleeper Report

I know surprisingly little about NCAA Men’s basketball, which is why my best bracket picks are randomly chosen (after weighting by seed).  But I’ve been wanting to do a more “sophisticated” analysis to see the relative strengths of the teams before filling out a bracket.  Also, it seems like you need to find upsets to differentiate yourself from every other bracket.  In the past my upsets were usually chosen by mascot strength (e.g. Badger > Horny Toad).

But this year is going to be different.  Fortunately, makes available two metrics for comparing relative strengths of each team:

  • SRS – Simple Rating System
  • SOS – Strength of Schedule

They are explained here.  Also, I posted Python code here to extract pull each region and dump them all into a csv file.

Right off the bat I want to plot these using R’s ggplot library.  Here the labels are Region and Seed:


The team with the highest SRS is E-1, the number one seed in the East, or Indiana.  Strangely, the team with the toughest schedule, MW-3, Michigan State, is only a three seed.  Actually, MW-1 (Louisville) , MW-2 (Duke), and MW-3 make up a fairly close cluster from the Midwest Region.

Speaking of clusters, looking at the data like this as if they were distances is exactly what is done in k-means clustering.  Using R’s fpc’s prediction strength I see that two is the only solution for k which results in a prediction strength > 0.80.  So if we create a two-cluster solution and use each team’s cluster for labels instead of Region and Seed we get:


But back to our Region & Seeds.

The West seems to be weaker overall with W-2 (Ohio St) and W-5 (Wisconsin) looking like sleepers coming out of that Region.  I say they’re sleepers because they’re almost as high as W-1 (Gonzaga), but look like they’ve endured a tougher schedule.

In the South there are a number of teams in the upper right – S-3 (Florida), S-1 (Kansas), S-4 (Michigan), and S-11 (Minnesota).  It seems like when lower seeds like Minnesota rank respectably in SRS and SOS that might be a situation where you can differentiate your bracket by picking them as upsets.

So there you have a nice final four – Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan State, and Indiana.


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