Accuracy of the Bracketologists

Jonathan Schuetteover 8 years


Aritcle written by:Jonathan SchuetteJonathan Schuette
It's no secret that March Madness has become big business. Everything about the tournament in its modern form is massive. From the viewership numbers to its impact on select economies, the size of this tournament cannot be denied.  The annual 68-team spectacle has spilled over to the internet as well (stunning, I know).  Recently, everything from individual team blogs to sites specializing in statistical analysis have experienced a boom in popularity because of this yearly event. But in particular, people specializing in "Bracketology" have seemingly gained more popularity than others. In fact, the science of correctly picking teams for the annual field of 68 has propelled a handful of people (Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, among others) to fame. While these individuals are hailed as expert prognosticators by their respective networks, we rarely hear of their mistakes.   You may already be aware, but the good folks over at "The Bracket Project", have documented and ranked every single Bracketologist since 2006.  In order to conduct their analysis, a simple mathematical formula was devised.  According to the explanation given on their site, the rules were as follows.  "This rubric awards 3 points for each team correctly picked, 2 points for each team correctly seeded, and 1 point for each team correctly seeded within one seed line.  With 68 teams, a perfect score is 408.  The variance section of the data table below lists the absolute deviation between each score and the mean for that particular year.  Thus, a 10 point variance means that site's bracket scored 10 points higher than the average bracket that year."  So now that we know the rules, where do the most popular personalities rank?  Of the most notable Bracketologists; Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans,'s Mike Huguenin, CBS Sports' Jerry Palm, and ESPN's Joe Lunardi, none rank inside the top-20 in terms of accuracy. In fact, they finished 23rd, 32nd, 34th, and 36th respectively.  Who's the most accurate?  The Washington Post's Eric Prisbell, who is nearly 16-points above average.   How does this impact Kentucky?  In the grand scheme of things, not too terribly much.  After all, an individual's predictions don't have much, if any impact on the actual selection process. But since the season ending injury to Nerlens Noel, Kentucky finds themselves in great danger of missing the tournament just one season after winning it.  Since we've proven the most notable Bracketologists to be little more than average, what are the most accurate prognosticators saying?  Unfortunately, many of the most reliable sites haven't produced their selections yet, but luckily, many other traditionally accurate brackets have been released.  Eighth ranked currently sees the Cats as one of the first five out.  The creators of "The Bracket Project" find themselves ranked 11th overall and have Kentucky dancing as a 10 seed. In twelfth ranked Sport Sentiments' latest bracket, Kentucky is a predicted 12 seed.  Finally, 13th ranked Shelby Mast, now with the Indianapolis Star, places the Wildcats in the "others considered" category.   As it currently stands, the more recognizable and inaccurate Bracketologists project Kentucky out of the tournament field.  However, the more accurate and lesser known prognosticators haven't reached a firm consensus on this group of Wildcats yet. Some say we're in, others say we're out.  If anything, these predictions do nothing more than prove that no one has a clue to which Kentucky team will show up in coming weeks. Will they rise to the occasion or will they collapse under pressure? While these current projections for Kentucky look bleak, an upward trend is not out of the question just yet.  

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