An Instant Analysis of the 2010 NCAA Tournament

Posted on March 14, 2010 by


Today’s guest post – and instant analysis of the 2010 NCAA Tournament (posted within hours of the brackets being announced) — is yet another excellent offering from Erich Doerr .  Erich first contacted me prior to the 2006 NBA Draft with a statistical preview in hand.  Each subsequent year has seen improvement in the depth and breadth of his analysis. Outside of his basketball writing, Erich does consulting work for major software products by day and has started a fledgling sports-themed Open Source software initiative by night.  

Sticking to what works, I’m here to share a statistical preview of the NCAA tournament.  The text may appear familiar, but the numbers are fully updated and relevant to the 2010 NCAA tournament.

Figure One: Bracket based on Pomeroy Numbers

Figure Two: Bracket based on Sagarin Numbers

Again in 2010, I am relying on the two strongest public NCAA metrics in the Sagarin Ratings and Ken Pomeroy‘s Pythagorean Ratings.  Statistics used by the Wages of Wins parallel Pomeroy’s approach, as both build off of offensive and defensive efficiency. 

Figure Three: Teams Probability Tables

 Since top seeds represent the best teams in the land, this approach will appear to heavily favor those teams due to their quality and favorable draw.  The final results here attempt to predict the statistically most probable brackets, which are not necessarily the picks most likely to win an office pool.

By the numbers, who has the right to gripe?  Well, both metrics agree that Kentucky has a difficult road ahead.   Besides being the weakest of the #1’s, they have a brutal bracket that reduces their Final Four chances by 5-10%.  The sweetest draw belongs to the Syracuse Orange. 

For those looking to call that historic upset, both Syracuse and Kentucky are about twice as likely to lose their first round matches as Kansas & Duke.

Stepping back, both the Sagarin & Pomeroy brackets come out with similar predictions, differing in 6 out of 64 matchups.  Nevertheless, both measures see Kansas & Duke in the championship game, with Sagarin’s Predictor preferring Kansas & Pomeroy’s Pythag backing Duke. 

The tables linked above also provide odds by conference, seed, and region.  Either the ACC and Big 12 win the title in 60% of all scenarios.  Adding in the Big Ten and Big East accounts for 90% of all championships, leaving all other conferences a 10% NCAA title chance, combined.  See the tables above and comment on your own favorite observation.

Finally, please note the Wages of Wins Journal does not condone gambling.  These picks should perform better than average overall, but typically variance rules these types of pools.  In general, an entry in a bracket pool has a 1/N chance of winning, where N = number of entries.  Due to the layout of the NCAA tournament, it is highly improbable that a good set of picks could raise the pre-ante odds to even 2/N.  Generally, there may be more gains to be had in shopping for the right office pool (i.e. the one containing the least informed participants) or game theory analysis if one was so interested in improving their office pool odds.  Always note that past returns do not guarantee future performance.

For readers that would like to run their own simulations, I have made the tool I use to generate these odds available at  Feel free to download the Excel file and adjust any numbers as you see fit.  Furthermore, advanced users should be able to modify the tool for other statistical measures.   Enjoy the tournament, and best of luck.

– Erich Doerr 

Sagarin & Pomeroy stats are as of March 14th
For simplicity I assumed Arkansas Pine Bluff would lose in the play-in game

No injury information is taken into account in this analysis. 

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