Bonus: 2019 March Madness Picks

Hey everyone, hope you’re enjoying your football offseason! I joined a March Madness bracket pool, so of course I created a spreadsheet to help me make picks. And just because, I’m going to share it and my findings here! Thanks to all who asked me to do this…

I did a similar analysis to what I do for football, that is find teams that have have the highest win probability with the lowest percent of public picked. The March Madness bracket is a lot harder than our regular confidence pools because there are SO MANY games to pick, and we don’t have the ability to go all in with a “16 pick” to push things. But, here are the toplines:

  1. Pick mostly, if not almost all, favorites. The number of upsets to pick depends on the number of people in your pool, if you have a lot of people, pick more upsets. If you have less, pick less. Don’t try to get too cute.
  2. Duke is overrated. We probably all knew that before running the spreadsheets, but it makes me surprisingly happy that the numbers showed the same. 38% of the public took Duke to win it all, but they only have a 19% chance of winning. Virginia has a 17% chance of winning, but only 7.6% picked. Gonzaga is not far behind with a 15% chance of winning and 8.5% picked. This doesn’t mean Duke won’t win it anyway (gag, I’m still sore about them beating Wisconsin), but it’s a much better value to go with Virginia or Gonzaga for the championship.
  3. Don’t pick the home team(s) of your bracket for upsets. If you are in a bracket full of Michigan people, don’t pick Michigan for any upsets.Stick with the numbers, and better yet pick an upset against them if the upset makes sense.

OK, here are some money (upset) picks by round (these are teams that the public isn’t picking but has a decent chance of wining).

Round of 64: 1. Belmont (38% chance of winning, 24% picked), 2. Ohio State (33%, 28%), 3. Vermont (21%, 12%)

Round of 32: Cincinnati (23%, 12%), Wofford (19%, 9%), Nevada(18%, 8%), Louisville (19%, 12%).

Sweet 16: Texas Tech (34%, 25%), Virginia Tech (19%, 7%), Auburn (21%, 9%), Iowa State (15%, 9%), Kansas (16%, 9%)

Elite 8: Michigan State (22%, 17%)

Final 4: Virginia (32%, 20%), Gonzaga (26%, 14%)

Championship: Virginia (17%, 8%), Gonzaga (15%, 9%). Just for comparison, Duke is 19%, 39%.

Here’s the chart, if you want to find your own upsets. Look for high win probability and low percent picked.

Sources: Fivethirtyeight, ESPN

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