Everyone has a personalized system for picking winners in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Some people choose their alma maters, some choose the mascots they like best, and others analyze every variable in hopes of getting an edge in their pool.
If you want to impress your friends and take the pot, ESPN Magazine revealed this secret formula:
“The most reliable indicators of upsets are offensive and defensive efficiency, schedule strength, turnover rate, and three-point shooting.”
Offensive efficiency is defined as the ratio of scoring per attempts. Therefore, if a slower pace team has a great ratio and can maintain that ratio in a faster pace game, they will likely defeat the faster pace team with a lower offensive efficiency. This works the same for defense based on points allowed per attempts by the other team.
Teams who have challenged themselves during the season tend to step up in the NCAA Tournament. Therefore, simply looking at wins and losses is not the best indicator during March Madness.
Every great coach will tell you turnovers are usually the difference between winning and losing. This axiom is even more important during March Madness. High ranked teams with high turnover rates tend to get upset when their fingers stay slippery after the tournament tips off.
Lastly, three-point shooting plays an extraordinary role in advancing through the brackets. However, unlike the previously mentioned indicators, three-point shooting is a much riskier variable because it’s more “all or nothing” than the others. Meaning, if a team shoots poorly from behind the arc (which is much easier to do than heavily altering efficiency or turnover ratios), the gamble is sure to come up empty.
The ESPN Magazine article has some very interesting charts and much more detailed explanations of the science behind these indicators. If you aren’t a subscriber like me, you can access the info if you want to subscribe to ESPN’s Insider program online.