Methods to Madness: Testing All the Rules

3873a867-d3ae-4921-9c5d-48185f89a6d6img1001As you’re listening to ESPN or any sports talk show this week, try and notice all the different explanations the “experts” use to justify their picks. So often they rely on contradictory sets of rules: “Defense wins championships, but Wake Forest can flat-out score!”…”I’ll take talent over experience anyday: I’m going with a young Memphis led by Coach John Calipari!”


I’ve filled out six serious brackets  for’s tournament challenge, which leaves me with four others to toy with. I am applying one rule — fast and hard — to each one of these brackets. Here’s the methodology and how it affects each bracket’s outcome:

Method 1: “Defense wins championships.”

Rule: Pick team with lowest opponent points-per-game average.

Final Four Outcome: Purdue, Memphis, Illinois, Stephen F. Austin

Title Game: Stephen F. Austin over Memphis

Analysis: In reality, Memphis is the only team among the Final Four that has a shot.

*   *   *   *   *

Method 2: “Team that scores the most…wins.”

Rule: Pick team with highest ppg average.

Final Four: Wake Forest, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma State

Title Game: North Carolina over Wake Forest

Analysis: Oklahoma State might be a reach, but the other three are plausible. Interesting outcome in the South region, where the top four seeds make it to the Sweet 16. The South is the only region that comes anywhere near reflecting realistic picks.

*   *   *   *   *

Method 3: “Who’s Hot?”

Rule: Pick team with best record over past 12 games. (In case of tie, choose best overall record.)

Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, American, Gonzaga

Title Game: Memphis over American

Analysis: In a pair of stunning first round upsets, No. 16 Radford tops No. 1 North Carolina in the South and No. 2 Duke falls to No. 15 Binghamton in the East. Memphis is the only team that’s perfect over their past 12 games. Not the worst strategy, but it favors mid-majors and long-shots who put together miracle runs to end their seasons and squeak into the tournament.

*   *   *   *   *

Method 4: “Who Did They Play?”

Rule: Pick team with best record against Top 25 teams. (In games where one team has not played a Top 25 team, opposing team advances if their record was greater than .500. Final tie-breaker is best overall record.)

Final Four: Louisville, California, Pittsburgh, North Carolina

Title Game: Louisville over Pittsburgh

Analysis: This is the most realistic rule. Aside from California, the Final Four teams could very well make show up.

*   *   *   *   *

Check back after each round and I’ll post the winning percentage and Final Four teams remaining for each method.

One thought on “Methods to Madness: Testing All the Rules

  1. So you’re telling me that putting all my hopes on Northern Iowa going out and representing is probably a mistake?!

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