March Madness 2019 -- 4/10/2019

You will get this newsletter on a very important day, the Burning Man ticket sale. I would like to write about that whole process and how I did, but I'm asked to write these newsletters a bit in advance, so that will have to wait until next week for that. For all those who are trying to get tickets today, I say "May the odds be in your favor."

Now that March Madness 2019 is over, I updated my spreadsheet and my page on the Probability of a Perfect Bracket. As that page says, my strategy for filling out a bracket is to simply go with the higher seeded team (or lower seed number) in every game. If both teams are the same seed, pick randomly. After adding data for this 35th tournament, my probability of success with this strategy is 1 in 55,380,246,801. That is much better than the 1 in 2^63 (9,223,372,036,854,780,000) often quoted by the media.

Following are some comments about this season:

  • After the first round, narrowing the field from 64 to 32, the average seed was exactly 6. As a basis of comparison, since the tournament started in 1985, the average is 5.81.
  • The biggest upset in the first round (based only on the seeds) was 13-seed U.C. Irvine (yay!) beating the 4-seed Kansas State.
  • In the second round, narrowing the file from 32 to 16, favorites did very well. In all 16 games, the higher seeded team won 15 times. The only upset was 5-seed Auburn beating 4-seed University of Kansas. Again, a favored Kansas school losing.
  • After the second round, the average seed was 3.06, compared to an average of 4.51. This ties a record with season 1 for the lowest average seed number after round 2. It also reverses a trend of lower seeded teams (or higher seed numbers) making it further in the tournament. From 2008 to 2018 the average seed after the second round was always 5 or more.
  • After the second round, 15 of the 16 surviving teams were a 1 to 5 seed. The only exception was 12-seed University of Oregon surviving.
  • After the third round, narrowing the field from 16 to 8, the average remaining seed was 2.25. On average it is 3.18. 12-seed Oregon got knocked out so all eight remaining teams were seeded 1 to 5. Three of the four number one seeds survived to this point.
  • The fourth round, narrowing the field from 8 to 4, saw three out of four upsets. A 2-seed beat a 1-seed, a 3-seed beat a 1-seed, and a 5-seed beat a 2-seed. Surviving to the Final Four were a 2, 1, 3, and 5 seeds. The average seed surviving to the Final Four was 2.75. The average at this point is 2.82, so the trend of favorites winning almost every game in rounds 2 and 3, finally ended. I usually root for the underdog, so I like to see this.
  • The fifth round, narrowing the field from 4 to 2, saw 1-seed Virginia beating 5-seed Auburn and 3-seed Texas Tech beating 2-seed Michigan State. The average seed remaining was obviously 2. The average at this point is 2.33.
  • As we know, the final game saw 1-seed University of Virginia beating 3-seed Texas Tech. This is the third year in a row a 1-seed has won the whole enchilada. Based on the 35 seasons played to date, a 1-seed wins 62.9% of the time.

If you care to discuss March Madness, please do so at Wizard of Vegas in my thread Probability of a Perfect Bracket.