Early- vs. late-season performance as tournament predictor

Submitted by Yeoman on March 31st, 2013 at 4:10 PM

I just used the wayback machine to look at the Sagarin predictor ratings from early January (games through 1/3). Notice anything?

  1. Duke
  2. Louisville
  3. Florida
  4. Indiana
  5. Kansas
  6. Syracuse
  7. Michigan
  8. VCU
  9. Ohio State
  10. Minnesota

Wichita State was 19, Michigan State was 23, Marquette was 54, FGCU was 127.

Marquette was a bad miss, but on the whole these were a better predictor of tournament results than the ratings in March. You'd have done pretty well, filling out a bracket based on these.

Sometime later I'll check to see if this was true in prior years, but in the meantime I'll make a suggestion: is it possible that performance in non-conference games, against the full variety of styles of play that you'll eventually see in the tournament and against teams that you aren't familiar with (nor they with you), is a better predictor than conference play? It's been a while since we've seen M light up a zone like we just saw for a few minutes in the first half against Florida, because except for Northwestern nobody in the B1G plays it.



March 31st, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

I think it was KenPom or Bracket Science that compared preseason rankings to tournament success and found a fair correlation among the top teams


March 31st, 2013 at 5:46 PM ^

I believe UConn's last championship team was 8-8 in big east play but undefeated in non- conference play- which supports your claim. But they did win the big east tourney as well...

I think a lot of it is luck. Because you were on a winning streak pre-tournament doesn't mean you are more likely to stay hot IMO in the NCAA tournament. It takes skill and luck to win it all. So teams that have talent and were not great at the end of the year like we were seem like an unlikely contender when in reality a lot of it is who is most talented and the luck they get.


March 31st, 2013 at 10:17 PM ^

Mostly I was just noticing that it was the schools that were on my radar in January that seemed to be having success now. In January the ACC was Duke, not Miami; the Big East was Louisville and Syracuse and no one was paying any attention to Georgetown; the B1G was Indiana and Michigan and maybe Ohio State or Minnesota (ok, that's also a bit of a miss but they lost a close game to one of the teams that would have been ahead of them), the best mid-majors were VCU, Gonzaga, Creighton and Wichita (in a clump--Gonzaga had done nothing to distinguish themselves from the other three). And who were we watching this weekend?

If they'd seeded the tournament at the beginning of January New Mexico would probably have been a 9-seed at best. Gonzaga would have been a 3 and not a 1. Georgetown would have been a bubble team; Wisconsin as well (they got some love from the point-spread-sensitive systems but they were nowhere in the human polls or ELO-like systems at the time). The 40 to 60 range at Sagarin then was littered with teams that got hot in conference play, got high seeds, and then crashed out in the first round or two.

I haven't been able to find earlier years of Sagarin on the wayback--the address has apparently changed and I haven't figured out exactly how (it's not just a matter of changing the years). I've got the end-of-year archive, but not midseason rankings.