March Madness! Round 1: NCAA Predictions

Takeaway contributors defend their brackets

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 12:39 PM

After a long season of hard work, heavy lifting and intense focus, team Takeaway presents its picks for this year's NCAA Tournament. Takeaway sports contributor, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin says Notre Dame will take it all, while Bradley Campbell, producer for our partner station, WGBH has his eyes on Kansas. We also get picks, based mostly on statistics, from Tobias J. Moscowitz, author of "Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won." We will follow the tournament all month with pre-game predictions and post-game analysis from our contributors:

From: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

Subject: 2011 Men's Bracket

Hi Toby, Bradley, Celeste, John, and Andrea!

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin here, The Takeaway’s sports contributor. Thought I would send in my bracket to kick off our discussion. Picking brackets isn’t easy for me, so here's the logic behind my "ibrahim-bracketology."

I always assume that Syracuse is going to win the NCAA tournament. This year, I decided to buck the trend and actually pick them to lose. It feels a little bit like hoping a friend falls in a ditch and breaks his leg. I guess I feel like a Benedict Arnold on that one. But to assuage my guilt, I always fill out two brackets: one in pencil and one in pen. This year, I penciled in Syracuse. This should take of my Karma.

I used pen to write in Notre Dame, though, and I feel good about that. Here's why: On the way to work today, I saw an old man with a Notre Dame hat and then walked by another man with a Notre Dame jacket.

But, of course, the choice wasn't easy. I fretted all last night about who I should pick to win. I mean, I like Ohio State, and Kansas is great, and Duke is a safe pick, but there is something to say about those hungry Hansboroughs. The older brother, Tyler, won a title with UNC and the younger brother, Ben, has a lot to prove. He was Big East player of the year (taking the title during the toughest conference this year by far). 

Finally, I liked Wisconsin all year. I think their three point touch will come back to help them get to the Elite 8. And, as a bonus, my wife went to school there, so this keeps her happy.

What do you all think? What's your no-so-secret-strategy for bracket dominance?

- Ibrahim

P.S. i am filling out my women's bracket now... that will come later.

From: Bradley Campbell

Subject: 2011 Men's Bracket


I felt like I was in the similar place with Duke. I always pick the Blue Devils to win it all. (Yeah, I know. I'm that guy. The one who cheers for the most unlikeable school in college basketball. The one who roots for the top seeds to succeed. The sort of vile human who wants to see LeBron James, and, gulp, Tiger Woods win.)

But at least with Duke you can always find at least one guy to cheer, and lean your bracket upon. And this one guy makes it okay to actually cheer for Coach K and yell along with the Cameron Crazies.

That guy this year is Kyle Singler. He's a tall, gangly, and goofy looking kid from Medford, Oregon. And he seems like he knows he is a tall, gangly, and goofy looking kid from Medford, Oregon. His trick-shot video released at the start of the season proves his athletic prowess, while also establishing some definite nerd credentials. Dude is awkward. Watch to his Dick Vitale impersonation (at about 1:33):

His stats are above average: 17.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists- but nothing obscene.

Here's the thing: his teams always seem to win tournaments. This goes back to his high school days in Oregon. In 2007, he led his team to the state championship, beating a Lake Oswego High School team powered by the new NBA record holder for most consecutive double-doubles, a guy who at that time, was known more for his connection to the Beach Boys, a guy named Kevin Love.

Now, this has zero impact on what Singler does this year in the NCAA, but it impacts my choices in the tournament. And I think at some point, we all turn off our logical side and go with gut emotion. (Or at least those of us who, like me, never win their office pools.)

Anyhow, to recap: when filling out brackets I always choose the top dogs. And I assuage my guilt by convincing myself there is a player on the team worth cheering for.

But I tossed my SOP aside this year. I chose Texas over Duke in the Elite 8 for no good reason. I have never seen the Texas team play. But LaMarcus Aldridge played at Texas years ago. As did Kevin Durant. (This was honestly my thinking.) And now I'm left feeling guilty… as though I cheated on Kyle Singler.

All this proves why picking NCAA brackets with stats, data, and actual research is a better way to go.

- Bradley


From: Tobias J. Moskowitz

Subject: 2011 Men's Bracket

Here is my bracket.  I didn't use team colors, allegiances (though I do have Purdue going to elite 8), hatred (Duke!), or any personal biases. I used stats, models, data, and then took a few chances in places where the numbers were close (this is the only place gut intuition mattered). We'll see how this approach does relative to others. Southeast bracket was by far the toughest. Not clear Pitt or Florida are good enough to make it to the Final four, but Wisc., Kansas State, and BYU are worse. If Davies hadn't been suspended I would have gone with BYU. Now, they lose to Florida in Sweet 16.

- Tobias


From: Celeste Headlee

Subject: 2011 Men's Bracket

OK, so this year I guess I'm going to be the control group. After years of participating in office pools and placing somewhere between 4th and 10th, I decided to rely on computer modeling for once. I gritted my teeth, set aside all sentimentality and what I thought I knew about college hoops, and followed the computer picks, almost to the letter.
You know, every time March comes around, respected basketball experts get mud in their faces because of reasonable predictions that turn out to be wildly wrong, and perfectly innocent radio hosts get shellacked in their office pools when someone comes in and wins it all by choosing the teams based on the colors of their uniforms.
At this point, there are at least 40 credible research labs that put together computer predictions and some scientists even stake their reputations on how accurate they are. You can see a bunch of them here:
I didn't pay any attention to their record of accuracy, though. I found the computer model that had chosen the same Final Four that I did, and that's what I went with. I think that Kansas is going to win (although I chose both Duke and BYU for the Final Four, despite the difficulties in rooting for both). But there are a few reasons why I want to see Kansas win. Firstly, I can't bear another Duke Championship. Do we need to say more about Duke, make more comparisons to Yankees and bemoan the abuses of power and arrogance. No, we do not. And BYU suspended a great player because he slept with his girlfriend. Blah.
But, Kansas. Show me some love here. Frank Martin's eyes popping out of his head, and the beard of Jacob Pullen? Someone held up a sign this year saying "The beard is back."  You gotta love that. 
Despite having constructed 85 percent of my bracket using the cold, calculating mind of artificial intelligence, I'm still all soft and squishy inside for the teams I like. 
Go Blue! (even though I didn't pick them to win more than one game. Sigh.)
- Celeste


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Comments [1]

Reem Jaber from New Jersey

Ibrahim speaks the truth! Get him on air more often!

Mar. 15 2012 08:25 AM

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