Picking a Team in March Madness The mathematical way to pick a winning team in the NCAA tournament.
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Picking a Team in March Madness

March Madness has gripped NPR. I admitted to a senior executive of the company the other day that I knew nothing about college basketball and he directed me to pick a team and root for it. (I'll save bracketology for next year). But how to pick a team?

Here's my methodology. First, pick the teams with the worst Graduation Success Rate (GSR). The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport produces a study each year that breaks down college athletic programs (here's the whole thing in PDF format). Being the cynical kinda guy I am, I figure that they're admitting — how do you say — that some athletes are not exactly university material... but they can play basketball. The GSR percentage gives us the first variable.

Next, I threw in their seed and using Mike Pesca as my guide, I factored in their mascots. Finally, I had to give each team an x-factor, so I Googled them all and found one thing that I liked or annoyed me about them and gave them a number value for that.

So, here's the math, the lower the score the better:

Nevada: GSR: 14%. Seed: 5. The Wolfpack mascot is weak and unthreatening in an environmentalist pro-wolf era: +5. Casinos and strip clubs in walking distance of campus and brothels within an hour drive: -3. No players or coaches caught in hooker/drug scandal +4. Total: 25

Memphis: GSR: 25%. Seed: 1. The mascot is a weird looking tiger, could eat all other mascots in competition, except for the UAB dragon: -6. Head Coach Calipari a jerk: -3. Total:17

Texas: GSR: 25%. Seed: 2. The longhorn cow mascot is a vegetarian animal: +5. Lost Big 12 Championship: +3. Total: 35

UAB: GSR: 29%, Seed: 9. Dragon mascot, cool but not real: +2. But has Dungeons and Dragons fans: -3. Star player nicknamed Squeaky, which is cool: -5. Total: 32

Pittsburgh: GSR: 29%. Seed: 5. The mascot, a mean looking panther, would give the Memphis Tiger a good fight before dying: -5. Associate Head Coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen was in Glengarry Glen Ross: -10. Head Coach Jamie Dixon got dunked by babes in beer commercial: -4. Total: 15

Go Pittsburgh! First game is Friday night against Kent State.

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