January 16, 2019
This is the information you need to pick your bracket right.

“I know I have plenty of enemies, but I’d rather be the most hated winning coach in the country than the most popular losing one.”

— Adolph Rupp, legendary Kentucky basketball coach

Welcome to my fourth annual all-singing, all-dancing NCAA men’s basketball tournament preview. For those of you who are joining us for the first time, welcome! Here’s the first three edition’s by year if you’re interested:

In general, this model does very well. Yesterday, I presented advanced stats for every single player in the NCAA. Today, I present an attempt at a bracket busting tool.

Let’s start off with an appropriate quote (from Wikipedia):

“The Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team is a college basketball team representing the University of Kentucky. Kentucky is the winningest NCAA Division I basketball program in history, holding both the most all-time wins (2174) and the highest all-time winning percentage (.764). Kentucky also leads all schools in total NCAA tournament appearances with 54, is first in NCAA tournament wins with 116, and ranks second to UCLA in NCAA championships with 8. In addition to these titles, Kentucky won the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in both 1946 and 1976, making it the only school to win multiple NCAA and NIT championships. The Wildcats have played in a record 54 NCAA Tournaments and 163 NCAA Tournament games, and hold the records for most Sweet Sixteen appearances (40), most Elite Eight appearances (35), and most total postseason tournament appearances (63). Further, Kentucky has played in 16 Final Fours (3rd place all time, behind UCLA and North Carolina), and 12 NCAA Championship games (tied for most with UCLA). Kentucky also leads all schools with 59 20-win seasons, 14 30-win seasons, and is the only school with 5 different NCAA Championship coaches (Rupp, Hall, Pitino, Smith, Calipari).”

The Kentucky men’s basketball team was, is and will continue to be the dominant force in college hoops. In my prior years doing this, the Wildcats’ odds of winning the tournament in the two years they’ve been in have been 31.5% (the year in which they won) and 5.7% (runner-up). Coach Calipari is doing this while turning over his roster every year, too, and this edition is so good that it’s undefeated and earned the following rave review:

Normally I’d call shenanigans on Coach Brown, but here I have to agree with him. I think this current edition of Kentucky is good enough for 35 wins in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. I’d put their talent level at a slightly better level than that of the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Sixers are playing well right now. You could probably get Sixers GM Sam Hinkie to trade Coach Cal the Sixers roster for the Kentucky roster if you threw in a few second rounders.

Why do I feel this way? Let’s look at the Power Rankings. They were built as follows:

  • Take all the Major Ratings; Sagarin, Ken Pomeroy and Sonny Moore.
  • Build your own Ratings by downloading all the games. (Thanks to RealGM for having an awesome site! Awesome podcast guests, too.)
  • Build a Wins Produced value model for each player and use it for working out the impact of injuries and rotations (thanks Dave!). More on this later.
  • Work out adjusted point margins (for injuries and schedule) for each team and each rating as well as a composite. Which makes a really cool poster:

Kitchen Sink 1

That’s every single NCAA division 1 school ranked and sorted (using my unadjusted ranking). A more relevant and friendly tournament version follows:

Kitchen Sink 2

It’s a lot of numbers. Let’s turn it into information, specifically odds.


Sagarin likes Kentucky at a dominant 36.7% chance of winning, then Wisconsin (12.1%), Virginia (8.5%) and Arizona (7.1%).


KenPom likes Kentucky at a slightly less amazing 28%, then Wisconsin (14.9%), Villanova (10.8%) and Arizona(10.6%).


Sonny Moore likes Kentucky (three for three so far) at 24.7%, then Arizona (20.5%), Villanova (13.6%) and Wisconsin (12.5%).


My model makes it a sweep for Kentucky at 25.4%, then it goes completely left and picks Ohio State (10.7%), Duke (10.6%) and Lousiville (6.5%).

Let’s do the composite model to bring it all together:


Kentucky wins almost a third of the time in the composite. Wisconsin, Duke, Arizona and Villanova round out the top five. Ohio State and Texas are your most likely upset specials. Not a lot of Cinderella candidates.

Now comes the payoff. Take all that, put it together, and make a customizable bracket generating spreadsheet.

NCCA 2015 Tourney Super Cheat vol 1

The sheet has four tabs:

  • The Adjustable Bracket
  • All the Ratings for every Division 1 school
  • The Ratings just for teams in the Tournament
  • The Lookup Table

To build your bracket you need to:

  • Go to the Bracket tab
  • Select your Model (cell E3). The Sheet will adjust to pick the favorite based on the model chosen.
  • Diagree with a pick? For every matchup you can select your winner (the cell that contains either Tm1 or Tm2- pick one)
  • Once you’re done, print your bracket.
  • Profit!

The Tm fields will change colors when you pick team2, and the odds will change to red when you pick an upset.

So if I wanted to do a crazy bracket, it would look like this:

Crazy bracket

Have fun, and win some pools.

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Arturo Galletti

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