March Madness Bracket: One Guy's Attempt

DON'T FORGET! Toss one of your ESPN brackets in the Team Speed Kills group and revel in the SEC-ness of it all. Or, something. Password is secspeed.

Every year I try new things to project how the field of 64 will shake out. Sometimes things work out really well, like in 2007 when I finished 8th overall in SI.com's pool. Most times I face plant in the first round.

Anyway, for this year I decided to take a coaching cliche to heart. I'm picking this thing one game at a time. I also like to lean heavily on history rather than use fancy stats. Part of that is because I only have so much room for stat methods in my head and I like to devote that to football, and part of it is that macro historical trends provide useful boundaries.

To save space on the home page, I'm putting my picks in this year's 63 games beyond the jump. Keep in mind that I'm doing things a bit unorthodox here, so sometimes I pick wins for teams in certain rounds before even picking their opponent. Illogical? Absolutely. Crazy? I hope not.

Legend

All data goes back to the first 64-team tournament unless otherwise noted. This generally applies when the words "never" and "ever" come up.

"Pct." refers to winning percentage.

"CBS upset" and "CBS underachiever" refer to this article.

Names are head coaches unless otherwise noted. Since they are one of the least volatile elements to this tournament, I leaned heavily on their track records as you will see. Players come and go, and they can be hot or cold, but good and bad coaching endures. In keeping with the first part of the legend, their records were truncated at 1985 when applicable.

UPDATE: Correct picks will be in bold, wrong picks will be strikethrough.

28 Reasonably Sure Bets

These I would put money on, if I bet on the tournament and you could just do individual games without a spread.

  • All four 1-seeds advance: because they never lose.
  • All four 2-seeds advance: because they almost never lose (only 4 have ever).
  • All four 3-seeds advance: because 14-seed wins are so rare as to be unpredictable.
    • Baylor, Pittsburgh, and New Mexico advanced; Georgetown lost.
  • Wisconsin advances: Bo Ryan has only lost in the first round with a marginal team.
  • Maryland advances: Gary Williams is 8-0 in first round games when having a team with pct. > .700.
  • Michigan State advances: because no Final Four team has lost in the first round the next season.
  • Tennessee advances: Bruce Pearl is 4-1 in the first round when pct. > .700; Steve Fisher is 1-4 in the first round without Fab Five members on his team.
  • BYU advances: This is really more about Florida losing, because great guards are the death of this team. From past tournaments, see Mateen Cleaves, Kyle Korver, Luis Flores, Randy Foye, etc. From this year, see Devan Downey and John Wall. Jimmer Fredette will kill this team.
  • UNLV advances: Lon Kruger is 8-0 in the first round when his team has 20+ wins.
  • California advances: Mike Montgomery is 11-1 when his team's pct. is at least .690.
  • Wake Forest advances: More about Texas losing. Teams ranked No. 1 at some point in a season that get a 5-seed or below are 0-3 all time.
  • Duke goes to Sweet 16: Mike Krzyzewski has never lost in the first weekend as a 1-seed.
  • Kentucky goes to Sweet 16: John Calipari always gets that far when his team's pct. is > .800.
  • Syracuse goes to Sweet 16: It's a 1-seed playing in its home state.
  • Kansas goes to Sweet 16: It's a 1-seed playing in a virtual home state game.
  • Kansas State goes to Sweet 16: It's a 2-seed playing in a virtual home state game.
  • Michigan State goes to Sweet 16: Tom Izzo is 5-0 in the second round as a 5-seed or better.
  • Kentucky goes to Elite Eight: Calipari is 5-1 in the Sweet 16 when his pct. > .800.
  • Syracuse goes to Elite Eight: Jim Boeheim is 5-0 in Sweet 16 when his team has 28+ wins.

23 Less Certain Bets

These are based on a bit shakier ground, but they're not based on blind conjecture.

  • Notre Dame advances: Mike Brey is 4-1 in first round games.
  • Xavier advances: This is more about Minnesota losing. Tubby Smith is 0-2 in first round games at Minnesota, and if not for beating shorthanded teams, the Gophers wouldn't even be in.
  • Gonzaga advances: Mark Few is 6-1 in first round games when his team wins 26+ games.
  • Missouri advances: Mike Anderson is 3-1 in first round games; Oliver Purnell is 0-5 in the same.
  • Georgia Tech advances: ACC teams seeded 10 or worse are 5-2 in tournament games.
  • Washington advances: Lorenzo Romar is 3-0 in first round games when his team has won 20+ games; UW fits the CBS upset profile.
  • Cornell advances: Both teams in this game fit the CBS upset profile.
  • Murray State advances: Both teams in this game fit the CBS upset profile.
  • Utah State advances: USU fits the CBS upset profile.
  • Siena advances: It has won its last two first round games in upsets, and Purdue hasn't been good without Hummel.
  • Pittsburgh goes to Sweet 16: Dixon is 3-0 in second round games when seeded 3 or better.
  • Villanova goes to Sweet 16: Wright is 4-0 in second round games, period.
  • Missouri goes to Sweet 16: Bob Huggins gets past the first weekend only 29% of the time, and he's not made it safely through two games the last two times he's won his conference tournament. Plus, the odds are good that a 2-seed will fall before the Sweet 16.
  • Butler goes to Sweet 16: This is more about Murray State losing, because only four 13-seed have ever made it past the first weekend.
  • Baylor goes to Sweet 16: This is more about Notre Dame losing. Brey is 1-4 in second round games at ND, and the one win was as a better seed than this year (a 5-seed) with a better regular season record.
  • Utah State goes to Sweet 16: This is more about Siena losing, because only four 13-seed have ever made it past the first weekend.
  • Washington goes to Sweet 16: UW fits the CBS upset profile, New Mexico fits the CBS underachiever profile, and Steve Alford has been upset early before.
  • Baylor goes to Elite Eight: This is more about Villanova losing, as it fits an underachiever profile that is 27-3 in picking a loser.
  • Duke goes to Elite Eight: Krzyzweski doesn't lose to 12 or worse seeds.
  • Kansas goes to Elite Eight: Bill Self is 4-0 in the Sweet 16 as a 1-seed and/or when his pct. > .800.
  • Kansas State goes to Elite Eight: This is more about Pitt losing. Dixon is 0-2 in the Sweet 16 when he's not a 1-seed.
  • Duke goes to Final Four: Krzyzweski is 11-1 in Elite Eight games.
  • Kansas State goes to Final Four: This is more about Syracuse losing. 'Cuse fits the CBS underachiever profile, and Boeheim has never been to the Final Four with fewer than 29 regular season wins.

12 Final Picks

These don't have a great rationale behind them, but they have to be picked to complete the bracket.

  • Butler advances: Butler is a more battle tested team. Plus, having more than two 5/12 upsets has happened just once and I've already picked two.
  • St. Mary's advances: In my recollection, inside usually beats outside in the tournament.
  • Ohio State goes to Sweet 16: Thad Matta is a better coach than Paul Hewitt is, plus OSU has Evan Turner.
  • Tennessee goes to Sweet 16: I see UT-Georgetown as a real tossup, as I think G'town is overseeded and Tennessee underseeded. I'm going with the SEC on this one.
  • Missouri goes to Elite Eight: Anderson's been there before, and Romar hasn't.
  • Ohio State goes to Elite Eight: The last two time Matta's won his conference tournament he's gone that far, while both Pearl and Tennessee have never gone past the Sweet 16.
  • Kentucky goes to Final Four: Calipari's too good and the team is too talented to lose to 10-seed Missouri. Plus, Mizzou likes a fast paced game and Kentucky thrives under such conditions.
  • Kansas goes to Final Four: The last time Self was a 1-seed with a pct. > .900, he got that far. Plus, KU is simply the better team.
  • Kansas goes to Title Game: KU swept the season series with K-State and will beat the Wildcats a third time.
  • Kenticky goes to Title Game: Kentucky is the better team, and Duke won't be able to handle UK's athleticism.
  • Kentucky wins it all: I'll take Patrick Patterson, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins over Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Kentucky is equipped to match up well, and Calipari's got to win one of these sooner or later. Until it gets vacated, of course.

One other trend I followed concerns teams from one year's second round making it to the second round the following year. Historically, between 60 percent and 82 percent (outliers excluded) of the teams from a particular year's second round that make the tournament the next year also make it to that year's second round.

This year, 19 teams from last year's second round made the field of 64. Applying those percentages, that would mean 12-15 of them advance and 4-7 of them go home. I have 13 advancing (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan State, Missouri, Pitt, Siena, Syracuse, 'Nova, Washington, Wisconsin, Xavier) and six going home early (Louisville, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Texas, Texas A&M).

So that's what I've got. Questions, comments, and rotten tomatoes may be directed towards me in the comments. Let me know just how badly I screwed this up.

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