March Mathness


This year I’m participating in an alternative March Madness pool, described in this 2001 paper. But before I get into it, I just want to recommend that you all go read this article about the Georgia’s Coach Felton, which describes how much his player’s academics matter to him and the athletic department.—He kicked his two top scorers off his team before the season began because they wouldn’t go to class!—I was glad to see the tournament tornado shut up his critics for now so he can continue to dig the team out of from the mess that Coach Harrick left.

The idea of our pool is that players have a dollar to spend to buy teams, and they get 1 point for every victory their teams win. The player with the most points at the end of the tournament wins. Sounds easy right? Well choosing your teams is no simple task because higher seeds cost more than lower seeds, so buying a bunch of lower seeded teams might be better than buying a handful of top seeds. Here is the price scheme that we’re using.

Seed 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13–16
Cost 0.25 0.21 0.18 0.15 0.12 0.10 0.08 0.06 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.02 0.01

As the paper points out, what is important in choosing your team is minimizing cost per win. Picking the best number one seed is likely to get you 5 or 6 wins for you $0.25. On the other hand, you could pick all 12th, 13th, and 14th seeds for $0.16 and get 3 or 4 wins, and have money left over to pick some 10th seeds. In the paper, they analyze fifteen years worth of NCAA tournaments and come up with an effective strategy to choosing your team. According to them, you should take a 1st seed and all 6th, 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th seeds along with an 11th seed or three 15th seeds. You can read the paper for more details.

I used their strategy as a starting point for choosing my teams, but I adjusted it based on who I felt was more likely to win in the first round. I ultimately picked 18 teams:

  • 1 UCLA
  • 6 Oklahoma
  • 6 USC
  • 6 Marquette
  • 6 Purdue
  • 7 Butler
  • 10 Davidson
  • 10 Saint Mary’s
  • 10 Arizona
  • 11 Kansas State
  • 12 George Mason
  • 12 Villanova
  • 12 Temple
  • 12 Western Kentucky
  • 13 Siena
  • 13 Winthrop
  • 14 Georgia
  • 14 Cornell

After the first two rounds of the tournament, I’m in the lead with 14 points and still have four teams (the ones in bold) in the tournament. However, three people have 12 points and five teams remaining. They all chose two number one teams—UNC and UCLA—and thus have an advantage on me right now. So I just have to root for UNC, West Virgina, and Stanford to lose next round if I’m going to maintain my lead. Go Cougars!

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on March 23, 2008 11:48 PM.

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