Tips for your NCAA Brackets [Data Geek style]

March 15, 2011

by Scott Sambucci

2 comments

Quick tips for your NCAA tournament brackets, grounded in academic research and economic theory of course:

1. Look at no more than six cues or factors for each decision, and three should do the trick.  Lamenting and pouring over more information and factors doesn’t lead to any increased accuracy in predictions. In fact, using only three factors can work just as well because using six or more leads to overconfidence.  That’s probably why the guy down the hall who’s watched every college game since November thinks he’s going to win your office pool – “I love my bracket!!”  You know that guy… He usually comes in last.  Isn’t is wonderful?

[Source:  “Effects of amount of information on judgment accuracy and confidence.” by Claire I. Tsai, Joshua Klayman, and Reid Hastie.]

2. Look for similar characteristics on each team, not differences. Turns out that people disregard components that the alternatives share and focus on the components that distinguish them.  “This team has a great offense or that team has a big center!”

3. Be conservative. People tend to prefer a small chance at a big gain, which is why you’ll see lots of brackets crash and burn with too many #12 and #13 seed picks.  “I’ve got Belmont in the Elite 8!”

[Source: “Prospect Theory.” Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.]

3.  Just do the opposite of me.  I’m already preparing the menu for my sixth year running of losing to my wife in our head-t0-head bracket challenge.  We bet a nicely prepared home-cooked dinner.  I’m thinking Italian this year…

[Source: My miserable gambling history]