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Sports

April 5, 2005

Bracketology Redux

The NCAA tournament is over. How did the experts' picks turn out?

Carl Bialik

Sporstwriters' forecasts are just for fun. And as NFL.com Gregg Easterbrook has shown, they're often not worth much more than fun. So just for fun, Gelf collected predictions from an assortment of sportswriters before the NCAA tournament began. It ended with the top two teams playing each other for the championship—really not that hard an outcome to forecast. (A national bracket compiled of all of the people who competed in the ESPN Tournament Challenge came up with the correct finals pairing.) Here's a roundup of the picks, ranked roughly in order of worst to best. Correct picks are bolded; Gelf's comments are in italics. You can play along with this ESPN.com bracket:

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Champion: Wake Forest

Jim Moore, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Final Four: Arizona, Washington, Duke [didn't name a fourth]

Championship: Duke over Washington

Duke and Washington exited in the Sweet Sixteen, while Arizona made it as far as the Elite Eight.

Carl Bialik, WSJ.com

Final Four: Syracuse, UConn, Arizona, Illinois

This boneheaded set of picks, by me, included two teams from the Chicago regional: Arizona and Illinois. At least one of them did make it through.

Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News

Final Four: Louisville, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Syracuse

Champion: Louisville

Mike Strange, Knoxville News Sentinel

Champion: North Carolina

ESPN analysts

Andy Katz

First-round upsets: Ohio over Florida, UTEP over Utah

Final Four: Illinois, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Syracuse

Champion: Wake Forest

Katz picked Stanford last year, and the Cardinal lost in the second round. He wrote this year, "Now just don't lose in the second round like Stanford!" Wake lost in the second round to West Virginia.

Andy Glockner

First-round upsets: Ohio over Florida, Utah State over Arizona

Final Four: Illinois, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Syracuse

Champion: Wake Forest

Jay Bilas

Final Four: Illinois, Washington, Syracuse, North Carolina

Championship: Illinois over North Carolina

This forecast—which had the teams in the title game right but reversed the result—was made on air.

Pat Forde

First-round upsets: Old Dominion over Michigan State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Alabama

Final Four: Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Syracuse

Champion: North Carolina

Doug Gottlieb

First-round upsets: Old Dominion over Michigan State, Utah State over Utah

Utah State played—and lost to—Arizona in the first round.

Final Four: Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke

Champion: North Carolina

Joe Lunardi

First-round upsets: N.C. State over Charlotte, Utah State over Arizona

Final Four: Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Louisville, Duke

Champion: North Carolina

Fran Fraschilla

First-round upsets: Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Alabama, UTEP over Utah

Final Four: Illinois, North Carolina, Washington, Michigan State

Champion: North Carolina

Dick Vitale, ESPN.com

Sleepers: Villanova, Alabama, Michigan State, Pittsburgh

Elite Eight: Illinois, Arizona, Louisville, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky

Final Four: Illinois, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke

Championship: North Carolina over Illinois

Scorecard: 2 of 4 sleepers out in first round, 1 in Sweet Sixteen and 1 in Elite Eight; 5 of Elite Eight; 2 of Final Four; championship exactly right. Dukie Vitale belied his rep by picking against Duke. The pick of Illinois to reach the title game wasn't in Vitale's online column, but he made it on air.

The Oklahoman

Jenni Carlson

First-round upsets: Nevada over Texas; Saint Mary's over Southern Illinois; Iowa State over Minnesota; NC State over Charlotte; Mississippi State over Stanford.

Sweet 16: Illinois, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Washington, Louisville, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, Kansas, Duke, Syracuse, Kentucky, Oklahoma.

Elite Eight: Illinois, OSU, Louisville, Wake Forest, North Carolina, UConn, Duke, Kentucky.

Final Four: OSU, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke.

Championship: North Carolina over Wake Forest.

Scorecard: 3 of 5 first-round upsets; 8 of Sweet 16; 4 of Elite Eight; 1 of Final Four; and champion right.

Carter Strickland

First-round upset: St. Mary's over Southern Ill.; Pittsburgh over Pacific; Creighton over West Virginia; Vermont over Syracuse; Mississippi State over Stanford; New Mexico over Villanova.

Sweet 16: North Carolina, New Mexico, Kansas, N.C. State, Duke, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, Washington, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Alabama, Illinois.

Elite Eight: North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Washington, Arizona, Illinois.

Final Four: North Carolina, Duke, Washington, Arizona.

Championship: North Carolina over Arizona.

Scorecard: 2 of 6 first-round upsets; 9 of Sweet 16; 4 of Elite Eight; one of Final Four; and champion right.

Berry Tramel

First-round upsets: Nevada over Texas; Wis-Milwaukee over Alabama; Creighton over West Virginia; Iowa State over Minnesota; New Mexico over Villanova.

Sweet 16: Illinois, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, OSU, Arizona, Pacific, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Florida, UConn, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Oklahoma.

Elite Eight: Illinois, OSU, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State, Oklahoma.

Final Four: Illinois, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Michigan State.

Championship: North Carolina over Georgia Tech.

Scorecard: 3 of 5 first-round upsets; 8 of Sweet 16; 3 of Elite Eight; 3 of Final Four; and champion right.

Mike Baldwin

First-round upsets: Nevada over Texas; New Mexico over Villanova; Northern Iowa over Wisconsin; Mississippi State over Stanford; Vermont over Syracuse.

Sweet 16: Illinois, Alabama, Oklahoma State, LSU, Washington, Louisville, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Florida, Charlotte, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, Oklahoma.

Elite Eight: Illinois, OSU, Louisville, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky.

Final Four: Illinois, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Michigan State.

Championship: North Carolina over Illinois.

Scorecard: 3 of 5 first-round upsets; 8 of Sweet 16; 5 of Elite Eight; 3 of Final Four; and championship exactly right.

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Comments

- Sports
- posted on Apr 06, 05
Rahime

Hey Carl,
I think this raises an opportunity to test out the thesis in James Surowiecki's the Wisdom of Crowds. According to the book, the ESPN national bracket should be better than most if not all of the expert picks. I wonder - was this the case? More to the point, does anybody feel like doing the work for me? And if the thesis doesn't hold up, I wonder how much people lean on the seedings? For an interesting report on the accuracy of seedings in the ncaa tournament see http://www.ukfans.net/jps/uk/seedings2000-01.html

Peace,
Rahime


Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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