Making sense of Madness?

March 16, 2017

Ranging from diligent research to coin flips, pure chalk to cutest mascot, everyone has their own strategy for completing an NCAA college basketball championship bracket. At SSTI, we’ve completed our brackets based on NSF’s university data for R&D expenditures and doctorates produced, as well as the selection committee’s rankings. The chart included with this article displays the data.

Update: The bracket that predicted the men's tournament using a combination of R&D expenditures, doctorates produced and NCAA ranking finished in the top 10 percent of all brackets submitted to the NCAA's tournament challenge. The NSF data-only men's backets finished in the bottom 20 percent. The expenditure and combined women's brackets did predict Stanford's success, but were otherwise not particularly strong. More details for all of the men’s and women’s brackets below.

Men's Tournament

We completed the brackets four different strategies.

  1. NSF’s 2015 data for R&D expenditures
    Winner: Michigan
    Cinderella: UC Davis
    See the full bracket (note that NCAA recorded UC Davis as NC Central)
    Performance through 2nd round: 37 points scored and 8 teams remain
    Performance through Final: 41 points, 16th percentile of NCAA challenge
  2. NSF’s 2015 data for number of earned doctorates
    Winner: Michigan
    Cinderella(s): Providence, Princeton
    See the full bracket
    Performance through 2nd round: 42 points scored and 9 teams remain
    Performance through Final: 42 points, 16th percentile of NCAA challenge
  3. NCAA selection committee’s rankings
    Winner: Villanova
    Cinderella: N/A
    See the full bracket
    Performance through 2nd round: 50 points scored and 10 teams remain
    Performance through Final: 82 points, 73rd percentile of NCAA challenge
  4. Summary ranking along all three metrics
    Winner: North Carolina
    Cinderella: Providence
    See the full bracket
    Performance through 2nd round: 47 points scored and 12 teams remain
    Performance through Final: 111 points, 90th percentile of NCAA challenge

Note: Cinderella is defined as the last remaining double-digit seed(s).

We will be updating this page weekly throughout the tournament to track performance. Stay tuned! The data table for the men’s tournament teams is below.

 

Women's Tournament

We completed the brackets four different strategies.

  1. NSF’s 2015 data for R&D expenditures
    Winner: Washington
    Cinderella: South Florida
    Performance through 2nd round: 6 teams remain
    Best finish: Stanford in Final Four
  2. NSF’s 2015 data for number of earned doctorates
    Winner: Texas
    Cinderella: Auburn
    Performance through 2nd round: 8 teams remain
    Best finish: Texas and UCLA in Sweet Sixteen 
  3. Most recent RPI for each team
    Winner: Connecticut
    Cinderella: N/A
    Performance through 2nd round: 13 teams remain
    Best finish: Calling South Carolina in Championship (had them losing to UConn)
  4. Summary ranking along all three metrics
    Winner(s): Stanford, UCLA
    Cinderella(s): South Florida, Auburn
    Performance through 2nd round: 11 teams remain
    Best finish: Stanford in Final Four

Note: Cinderella is defined as the last remaining double-digit seed(s). The NCAA does not offer an interactive bracket completion tool for the Women’s tournament, so we do not have completed brackets for each strategy.

We will be updating this page weekly throughout the tournament to track performance. Stay tuned! The data table for the men’s tournament teams is below.