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2015 NCAA Tournament: Using Efficiency Stats to Beat the Experts and Win Your NCAA Pool

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Advanced statistics are a great tool for a winning bracket!

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GoAUpher is using Scrabble scoring to determine his NCAA Bracket, I am going to suggest a slightly more objective approach. I published this same thing a year ago and wanted to update with the 2015 participants/stats.

There are many ways to fill out your bracket and there are anecdotal stories to support all of them.  Picking your bracket based on uniform color, mascot toughness, my cousin went there for grad school, anybody but Iowa/Wisconsin, trusting your acute knowledge of all 351 D1 schools; are just a few methods that one can utilize to win their bracket pool.  Others may go the nerd route and try to utilize advanced stats to give themselves an advantage over the herd.  This may be actual useful information for you when filling out your bracket.

To help you better analyze each tournament team's advanced statistics I've created an interactive dashboard that shows you all 68 NCAA Tournament teams and some of their key efficiency data points. Hopefully this will help you put together a winning bracket!

How The Table Works

There are two tabs (Teams by Region, All Teams) in the upper left part of the dashboard.  Teams by Region allows you to view all teams within each particular region.  The All Teams tab allows you to manually select teams individually for comparison.  The All Teams tab also includes a some additional stats (eFG% and FT Rate). Below the table you can find details for each team's efficiency statistics that explains their individual data points.

What Do The Quadrants Mean?

  • Upper Right quadrant - Good Offense, Good Defense (teams scoring over 1.1 point per possession and allowing opponents to under 1.0 point per possession).
  • Upper Left Quadrant - Good Defense, Weak Offense
  • Lower Right Quadrant - Good Offense, Weak Defense
  • Lower Left Quadrant - Weak Offense, Weak Defense

What Do The Stats Mean?

Efficiency stats in basketball do their best to break everything down, both offense and defense, into possessions.  How many points a team scores per game is not a very good method for evaluating teams against each other if one team plays a style that gives them quite a few more possessions per game than the other team.  The stats above (and defined below) are possession based stats.

  • Def PPP - Defensive Points per Possession - The average points allowed per possession.
  • Off PPP - Offensive Points per Possession - The average points scored per possession.
  • Def TO% - Defensive Turnover % - The % of opponent's possessions where you force a turnover
  • Off TO% - Offensive Turnover % - The % of possessions where turn the ball over
  • Def Reb % - Defensive Rebound % - Percent of opponent's missed shots that you rebound
  • Off Reb % - Offensive Rebound % - Percent of your own missed shots that you rebound
  • Def eFG% - Defensive Effective FG% - Your opponent's shooting percentage that gives a bump to made three-pointers (FGM+(3PM x 0.5) / FGA)
  • Off eFG% - Offensive Effective FG% - Your shooting percentage that gives a bump to made three-pointers
  • Def FT Rate - Defensive Free Throw Rate - Opponent's free throws attempted divided by field goals attempted.
  • Off FT Rate - Offensive Free Throw Rate - Free throws attempted divided by field goals attempted.

How I Would Use This Visualization...

The chart above is utilizing Points per Possession to plot teams.  As mentioned above, you want teams to be in or near the upper right quadrant.  Teams in that area are generally good offensive teams who also play good defense.  When I was putting this together it was interesting that all of the other teams (those not in the tournament) tended to congregate on the lower right side of the chart.

In the Teams by Region tab the first round match-ups are compared against each other below the chart.  This allows you to compare these teams based on the factors of Points per Possession, Turnovers and Rebounding.  It also gives the KenPom ranking which is a complex algorithm that takes into account all of these factors (and more) to rank teams.  Broadly speaking this is has usually been a pretty good indicator of team success in this tournament.  Of course you have to take into account specific team match-ups (i.e. you can't simply put the top 16 KenPom teams in the Sweet 16 if they play each prior to that round).

As noted above, the All Teams tab allows you to pick which specific teams you want to compare.  You can either pick a team from the drop-down filter on the right or you can highlight the teams you want to look at and their specific data will appear below the chart.  Because I had more real estate in this tab I included effective FG% and Free Throw Rate to offer you even more data to work with.

In my opinion this is just a handy tool to help you compare teams based on these KenPom efficiency stats.  The table is interactive in multiple ways and should allow you to make sound decisions for your brackets.

Good luck!