1st Edition

Improving Your NCAA® Bracket with Statistics

By Tom Adams Copyright 2019
    193 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations
    by Chapman & Hall

    193 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations
    by Chapman & Hall

    193 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations
    by Chapman & Hall

    Twenty-four million people wager nearly $3 billion on college basketball pools each year, but few are aware that winning strategies have been developed by researchers at Harvard, Yale, and other universities over the past two decades. Bad advice from media sources and even our own psychological inclinations are often a bigger obstacle to winning than our pool opponents. Profit opportunities are missed and most brackets submitted to pools don’t have a breakeven chance to win money before the tournament begins.

    Improving Your NCAA® Bracket with Statistics is both an easy-to-use tip sheet to improve your winning odds and an intellectual history of how statistical reasoning has been applied to the bracket pool using standard and innovative methods. It covers bracket improvement methods ranging from those that require only the information in the seeded bracket to sophisticated estimation techniques available via online simulations. Included are:

    • Prominently displayed bracket improvement tips based on the published research
    • A history of the origins of the bracket pool
    • A history of bracket improvement methods and their results in play
    • Historical sketches and background information on the mathematical and statistical methods that have been used in bracket analysis
    • A source list of good bracket pool advice available each year that seeks to be comprehensive
    • Warnings about common bad advice that will hurt your chances

    Tom Adams’ work presenting bracket improvement methods has been featured in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and SmartMoney magazine.

    The Birth of the Pool

    Predicting the Tournament Outcome

    Ratings versus Seedings

    The Conquest of Pools with Upset Incentives

    Predicting Your Opponent's Brackets

    Parametric Whole-Bracket Optimization

    A Practical Contrarian Strategy

    Statistical Hypothesis Testing


    Bracket Advice Sources

    Basketball Knowledge Considered Harmful


    Tom Adams is the creator of Poologic, a website that has provided research-based advice on winning bracket pools since 2000. Poologic has been featured in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, SmartMoney, and other publications. He is a systems analyst who has spent most of his career in scientific research support. He has publications in the area of statistics and probability. He has a BSc in mathematics from the University of North Carolina.

    "Tom Adams' book is the first comprehensive survey and review of basketball pools and strategies for making picks.  Adams brings a casual, chatty style to some highly technical subjects, from basic odds to full blown probability modeling. Along the way, he mixes in historical anecdotes and forays into psychology, all of it well researched.  If you've thought long and hard about how you might pick a better bracket, this book will engage, entertain, and educate about the research-based ideas of the last two decades."
    Bryan Clair, Saint Louis University

    "Tom Adams was creating statistical analyses and software to help laypeople better understand NCAA basketball tournament pools long before Nate Silver and others made such investigations cool and routine in political science, sports, and other areas of popular interest. The culmination of Tom's lifelong interest and activity in the area, this book explains all the key ideas in both bracket probability modeling and game theory. These key ideas enable the reader to make picks that have a good chance of actually happening, but which aren't also likely to simply duplicate the picks of other players in the pool. With a generous helping of illustrations, interesting historical tidbits, and even a review of currently available bracket advice sources, this book is a must-have for aspiring bracketologists interested in the data science tools that can give them an edge during March Madness." 
    Brad Carlin, Counterpoint Statistical Consulting