Three Virginia Tech students ace NCAA bracket project
By Bill Roth
So how did you do in your bracket?
Well, three Virginia Tech students aced this ‘exam’ as part of a class in our Sports Media & Analystics Program.
Again this spring, the Intro to Sports Media Class at Tech was charged with analyzing and then predicting the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. Each of the 75 students in the class was provided with all the applicable data including advanced statistics on each team, plus 350 pages of team sheets, the exact sheets the NCAA Tournament Selection committee used to select and seed the teams.
Three of them did exceptionally well: Rosie Hutchison, a sophomore from Warrenton, Virginia correctly nailed three of the final four teams: Kansas, Michigan, and eventual champion Villanova.
Evan McNally, a freshman from Medford, NJ and John Coggsdale, a Junior from Altavista, Virginia both correctly projected the outcome of 40 of the 63 games in the tournament. How’d they do it?
Well, they had to submit essays explaining their brackets before the very first game. Here’s what each student wrote. Keep in mind, these essays were submitted before the tournament, on Tuesday, March 13.
Rosie Hutchison: For most of my first and second round choices, I used Ken Pomeroy's data on offensive efficiency and strength of schedule. I do not think Villanova's offense can be topped by any other team in the East. I feel the same about Virginia and Michigan's defensive efficiency in the South and West respectively. However, I find it very likely that UVA could be taken down by Cincinnati, especially given De'Andre Hunter's recent wrist injury. Given strength of schedule throughout the season and seed number, I am picking Kansas to defeat MSU. Consequently, I believe Michigan will beat Cincinnati, and Villanova will beat Kansas due to their superior offense, sending Michigan and Villanova to play for the National Championship. Out of those two, Villanova has a worthier record, offensive data and strength of schedule. Villanova will win the national championship.
Evan McNally: To decide my picks, I would first look at Pomeroy's rankings and paid special attention to the defensive rating, also taking into account strength of schedule at times, and if a team had a significantly better defensive rating, I would favor them. Next I looked at the team sheets, mostly to see the caliber of teams that each team has played and won against this year. For example, I thought Florida's 13 quadrant-1 games compared to St. Bonaventure's 5 is meaningful experience for Florida. The next thing I looked at, especially in closer matchups, were stats like turnovers, offensive rebounds, and free throw percentage. I thought these three stats have the potential to be a difference maker in games, so if one team was heavily favored in these categories, I would pick them. Villanova has an above average defense and the number one ranked offense according to Pomeroy. They are 13th in fewest turnovers, and are a very good free throw shooting team at over 77%. I also thought the schedule was favorable for Villanova. I had Texas Tech and Villanova in the elite eight, but gave Villanova a slight edge. Texas Tech's defensive rating is third, but I also factored in their strength of schedule which was not good and the fact that they would be going up against the top offensive team.
John Coggsdale. I started off comparing teams RPI ranking and then looked at the different ratings of Kenpom to take a closer look at the teams strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, after looking at the stats of those rankings, I took into account the teams records against the top-25 and combined the findings of those rankings to figure out who to pick for each game.
So, next year, if you need some help with your NCAA picks, Rosie, John and Evan are three good sources. These kids know their stuff!