2014 NCAA Final Four Values

Posted by on March 18, 2014

Last year, I wrote about the idea of finding value in your NCAA bracket. The larger your tournament pool, the more important “value” becomes. That means not only picking who has the best chance of winning, but also considering who everyone else is going to pick. You can get three Final Four teams right, but if everyone else in your pool also has them your margin for error is extremely small. On the other hand, taking unique picks only helps if those teams actually live up to your predictions.
 
So there’s obviously a natural trade-off between picking the best teams and picking the unique teams. Going too far on either end of the spectrum will decrease your chances of winning drastically (at least in a large pool).
 
We already have ESPN’s Tournament Challenge data as a baseline for who most people in your bracket pool will pick to make the Final Four. This year, I’ve decided to use 538′s bracket predictions as the reality-based value for a team’s Final Four odds. This is honestly mainly due to the fact that Nate Silver released his before Ken Pomeroy’s log5 projections, but the injury adjustment (I’m looking at you, Michigan State) is a nice touch.
 
The methodology here is as simple as possible: Subtract each team’s reality-based Final Four odds from the public’s perceived Final Four odds. The teams with the five best Final Four chances in each region are below:
 
Table (2014)
 
Villanova is a strong option in the East. The Wildcats have nearly the same odds as Virginia and Michigan State, but are only being picked to make the Final Four in 10% of ESPN brackets. Yes Villanova did get demolished by Creighton twice (we know), but they were also incredibly good on the road this season. Nova actually set the record for most road wins in one season against teams ranked 40-60 in KenPom. That’s a weird and arbitrary record, but those kinds of wins are generally undervalued by fans and analysts around the country.
 
Ohio State and UCLA are both undervalued long shots worth a look. However, it’s actually very difficult to go wrong in the South region. Everyone’s taking Florida, but that doesn’t make them a bad pick. Just know that you might have to take on a little (calculated) risk elsewhere if you take the Gators. Kansas is also a very solid option here. It’s hard to mess up the South.
 
The Midwest is full of household names. Kentucky‘s road to the Final Four is brutal, but it’s still pretty surprising to see only 4% of America taking them. Calipari and the freshman are probably still not worth the gamble unless you’re planning on a lot of chalk elsewhere though. This is another region where you can justify all five teams, but I’m not sure I want to bet against Russ Smith and Louisville.
 
The West region is more of the same. Arizona is a solid favorite, but it’s generally pretty hard to completely mess up your Final Four pick here (and throughout the bracket). I think this is due to the conference tournaments. The general bracket-picking population tends to overvalue the conference tournament winners. Last year, for example, ACC champs Miami was a clear team to avoid. However, this year teams like Louisville and Michigan State actually got properly corrected by the conference tourney. Then there’s Virginia, who somehow still is being left off about 75% of Final Fours despite an ACC championship and a 1-seed.
 
This is the year where TV analysts can go on and on about parity in college basketball and actually be correct.

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  1.  2015 NCAA Final Four Values | The Hoop Vision
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