Raymond's highly scientific predictions for the 2008 NCAA men's basketball tournament

Raymond Chen

Raymond

It’s that time again: Raymond comes up with an absurd, arbitrary criterion for filling out his NCAA bracket.
This time, I studied all the games played in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 1985 and computed how many of the games were won by the favorite and how many were upsets, broken down by the numerical difference between the seeding of the two teams.

Seed
Difference
WinnerUpset
Rate
FavoriteUnderdog
112110546%
2141856%
31107641%
4552329%
51134528%
69218%
71004230%
81144026%
9811919%
103240%
11861515%
12300%
138445%
1400N/A
158800%

I found it interesting that when the teams are seeded N and N+2, you get an upset more than half the time!
If the probability of the favorite winning is p and I choose the favorite with probability q, then the prediction would be correct pq + (1−p)(1−q) = (2p−1)q + (1−p) of the time. If you hold p constant, then this is maximized when q = 0 if p < ½, or when q = 1 if p > ½. (If p = ½, then it doesn’t matter what you pick for q.)
Therefore, to maximize the number of correct predictions, I should always choose the favorite, unless the two teams are seeded N and N+2, in which case I always choose the underdog. But that makes for a boring bracket. Consequently, I went for the suboptimal algorithm of choosing q = p. Here is the result:

Update:

  • Correct predictions are in green.
  • Incorrect predictions are in red.
  • (!) marks upsets correctly predicted.
  • (*) marks upsets predicted but did not take place.
  • (x) marks actual upsets not predicted.

Opening Round Game

16Mount St. MarysMount St. Marys
16Coppin St.

East bracket

1North CarolinaNorth CarolinaNorth CarolinaNorth CarolinaLouisville
16Mount St. Marys
8IndianaArkansas (!)
9Arkansas
5Notre DameNotre DameWashington St.
12George Mason
4Washington St.Washington St.
13Winthrop
6OklahomaOklahomaLouisvilleLouisville (!)
11St. Joes
3LouisvilleLouisville
14Boise St.
7ButlerSouth Alabama (*)Tennessee
10South Alabama
2TennesseeTennessee
15American

Midwest bracket

1KansasKansasKansasKansasGonzaga
16Portland St.
8UNLVUNLV
9Kent St.
5ClemsonVillanova (!)Villanova
12Villanova
4VanderbiltSiena (!)
13Siena
6USCKansas St. (!)WisconsinGonzaga
11Kansas St.
3WisconsinWisconsin
14Cal St. Fullerton
7GonzagaGonzaga (x)Gonzaga
10Davidson
2GeorgetownUMBC (*)
15UMBC

South bracket

1MemphisMemphisOregonMichigan St.Michigan St.
16Texas Arlington
8Mississippi St.Oregon (x)
9Oregon
5Michigan St.Michigan St.Michigan St. (!)
12Temple
4PittsburghPittsburgh
13Oral Roberts
6MarquetteMarquetteStanfordStanford (*)
11Kentucky
3StanfordStanford
14Cornel
7Miami FlaMiami FlaTexas
10St. Marys
2TexasTexas
15Austin Peay

West bracket

1UCLAUCLAUCLAUCLAXavier
16Miss Valley St.
8BYUTexas A&M (!)
9Texas A&M
5DrakeDrake (x)Drake
12W. Kentucky
4ConnecticutSan Diego (!)
13San Diego
6PurduePurdueXavierXavier
11Baylor
3XavierXavier
14Georgia
7West VirginiaWest VirginiaDuke
10Arizona
2DukeDuke
15Belmont

Finals

3LouisvilleMichigan St.Michigan St.
5Michigan St.
7GonzagaXavier
3Xavier
Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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