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2012 NCAA Bracket Methodology: Experience Matters; Weighted-Average-Experience (WAE)

As I have written about lately, I feel very strongly that experience matters in basketball. Be it the NBA or the NCAA, the teams that win championships are usually stocked full of very good players who have a wealth of basketball experience.

This is the methodology I have used in picking my bracket for this year’s First Off The Bench Bloggers Cup. Although I think that experience really matter I couldn’t just simply calculate the average of a team’s experience (number of years each player has played college ball) and pick winners based on that; it would be much too simple and wouldn’t work at all, I don’t think.

First of all it has to be considered that there is absolutely zero parity in the NCAA tourney. Some teams, such as Kentucky, sport a roster that will see 2,3 or 4 of its players in the NBA in a few years. Other teams, such has Norfolk State, have never been to the tournament and I am sure they are just happy to be there. The stats back-up this lack of parity, as only 3 teams with a seed lower than #3 has ever won the tourney, and those were a #4, #6 and #8. In that quick glance, half of the field (seeds 9-16) is fighting against a mountain of historical statistics to win this thing, let alone the more superior teams.

Due to these significant historical statistics I am going to play the odds and assume all the #1, #2 and #3 seeds will advance at least until the Elite Eight. From there I am going to use my newly created Weighted-Average-Experience (WAE) statistic to choose the winners of the last 3 rounds.

The WAE calculates the average experience of a team’s players, but through a weighted average method that puts more weight on teams’ “largest contributors”.

I do this by first only focusing on the teams’ 7-man rotation and then calculate a ratio of the individual players’ Points-Per-Game (PPG) against the total of the 7-man rotation’s PPG. That gives me the relevant “weight” in which that individual player’s experience will have towards calculating the overall team’s experience average.

This method rewards team with experienced players as their largest contributors and punishes teams who are heavily reliant on freshmen. I have tried to eliminate the “experience” or lack-there-of that a team might have at the end of its bench, because those players are very unlikely to see the floor at all during the tournament.

After going through the WAE calculations for the top 12 ranked teams, Kentucky came out with an extremely low score (1.55 WAE), as their top 5 contributors are all freshmen except for one sophomore. Other teams, such as Kansas and Missouri ranked very well, as both of their top contributors are seniors. See the overall rankings below.

Full WAE Stats Breakdown
Once I did the comparison of WAE for the matchups in the final rounds, I picked a Final Four of: Duke, Florida State, Missouri and Kansas, with Missouri beating Kansas in the Final.

For the first two rounds of the tournament where I gave a bye to the 12 top ranked teams, I neglected to do the WAE statistic for the teams involved. My rational there is that there are always upsets, and it is unlikely for any of those teams to win the Final anyways based on history. The main reason I play in these NCAA pools is to win, and picking the winner of the final is worth 32 points, while picking an upset in the first round is only worth 1. Hence, I went though and picked fairly randomly for the round 1 and 2 games that did not involved the 12 top ranked teams.

Like it or loath it, this is my methodology for 2012, and I have a feeling it should have a punchers chance of winning the First Off The Bench Bloggers Cup this year. History is with me!!

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  1. Tory
    March 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    How do you normalize the scoring between teams? You could have senior on a team who has a low ppg for a low scoring team who has a high WAE then a freshmen who contributes more on a high scoring team. Just a thought, it seems like it makes in theory but statistically it needs a little tweaking.

  2. March 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    The total scoring between teams isn’t really a factor, because the WAE only uses the PPG as a tool to measure the relevancy (or “weight” in the weighted average) of an individual player within his team’s 7-man rotation.

    Tory, the situation you described above would generate a similar “weight” for the freshman and the senior, but the senior would increase his team’s WAE purely based on the fact that he is a senior and not a freshman.

    Hope that helps. I do agree that the additional WAE points for a Senior vs a Freshman might be a bit high, but I think that overall it measures what I want it to.

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