Selection Sunday. And on St. Patrick’s Day to boot. After I had a green breakfast with my family, I did my day job and then turned my attention to hoops.
Last year, I began this blog by writing a piece evaluating 4 notable bracketologists – Lunardi, Palm, Patrick Stevens (Wash Post) and Shelby Mast of USA Today. This year, I’m ran those 4 back and added 3 more.
I don’t know if this college basketball season was a strange one, or if it’s just how the sport is now. The sport (i.e. quality of play, depth of good teams) seemed to be down. A lot of the usual contenders didn’t have it this year and I honestly think it was a dogfight just to get to 68 teams.
With that said, ‘How did the bracketologists do?‘ There are many brackets out there (shoutout Bracket Matrix) and some guys make a living by putting these clickbait deals out there year-round. So let’s put our page views where our mouth is…or something.
My Scoring System
1 point for every correct at-large
1 point for every correctly-seeded team
-1 points for missing a team by 2 seed lines (-2 points by missing by 3 lines or more)
1 point for every team placed in the correct region
1 point for every team in the correct opening weekend location
There’s A Reason He’s The Professor
In my measurement last year, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi edged out Patrick Stevens as the top overall bracket guesser. And he’s my top scorer again in 2019. Below are the standings and then I’ll give a synopsis of all 7 brackets that I reviewed:
In my scoring system that takes into account guessing the field, seeding, location and region placement, Lunardi was the leader with 130 points. Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated was second, followed by Stevens and Mast.
1. Joe Lunardi, ESPN (130 pts)
Link to Bracket
Lunardi predicted 35 of the 36 at-large teams (he picked TCU over Belmont) and seeded 47 teams correctly. He was only off by 2 seed lines 3 times (Utah State, Iowa and VCU). Lunardi put 19 teams in the correct region and 32 teams in the right geographic location.
The Skinny: The most famous bracketologist was the best this year at seeding and for the second year in a row (since I’ve looked) he missed just one at-large.
2. Michael Beller, Sports Illustrated (125 pts)
Link To Bracket
I like Beller’s tweets and so I thought I’d throw him in this evaluation. He seems to make good points to me, and I wondered if he’d beat Lunardi in my scoring system. He came close. He missed 2 at-large picks (North Carolina State and TCU), but his seeding was pretty close and he was the best at placing teams in the correct region.
The Skinny: Baller knew the South Region really well and while tallying everything I thought he might be the overall winner. He was penalized for being 2 lines off on VCU, Seton Hall and Iowa. So he and Lunardi both differed with the committee on VCU and Iowa.
3. Patrick Stevens, Washington Post (119 pts)
Link To Bracket
Few work as hard Stevens to see and dig into college games. His morning Twitter threads cover so much and you’ll hear from him in the ACC or Big Ten one night, and the MEAC another. A true junkie. Stevens was third in this calculation, but he missed 3 at-larges and was penalized 7 points for being off on seed lines. He was the only person to miss a school by 3 lines and be docked 2 points (Utah State).
What Stevens did better than anyone else was place teams at the correct site. He put 36 teams in the right city to recover and end up in the top half of the standings.
The Skinny: Stevens bet on Indiana and North Carolina State, two teams that stood on very different arguments. Neither made the tournament. Like Lunardi and Beller, Stevens was 2 seed lines off on Iowa and VCU.
4. Shelby Mast, USA Today (118 pts)
Link To Bracket
This score came out better than I expected. Mast was strong in seeding and wasn’t penalized much. He was last in region placement but right in the middle in geography.
The Skinny: Mast was second to only Lunardi in seed predictions, getting 42 right with just 3 penalties. Mast was penalized on VCU (but was good on Iowa!), was too high on Seton Hall and too low on Syracuse.
T-5. Jerry Palm, CBS Sports & Brian Bennett, The Athletic (115 pts)
Link To CBS Bracket
Last year, noted Purdue enthusiast and Region Rat (like me!) placed 3rd in the bracketologist eval. He did about the same this year with a little bit better scoring on geography. Palm got 35 at-larges (TCU over Belmont) and seeded 40 teams correctly but was penalized 6 points on Iowa, Minnesota, Villanova, Cincinnati, Washington and Mississippi State.
I added The Athletic’s bracket because I’m a fan of the product and read it most days. Wanted to see if the company making waves in local beat reporting had also made waves in bracketing. There’s room for improvement, but you can’t scoff at any bracketologist who picks 35 of 36 at-larges.
The Skinny: Palm is still a step behind Stevens and Mast slipped by him this year. All are behind Lunardi and (at least this year) SI’s Michael Beller.
7. Andy Katz, NCAA.com (108 pts)
Link To Bracket
I included this bracket because Katz is a big name in college hoops media and is now working for the blue shield. His publishing a bracket prediction on NCAA.com is important, so I decided to take a look. I was curious if his bracket might look different than anyone else’s due to brand allegiance.
The Skinny: It did look different, but not how you’d think. Like most, Katz’s bracket prediction had 35 at-large picks correct (TCU over Belmont), but he was at the bottom in seeding and geography. Katz had 36 teams seeded correctly, the lowest total of the 7 brackets I reviewed. His seeding penalties weren’t too bad (he was also docked for VCU and Iowa).
Hope this was a fun exercise. Keep this post in mind next season when you’re sweating the bubble. Of course it’s all in good fun – and the real fun starts Tuesday night. Enjoy the games!