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Article:ESPN March Madness Study Confirms What We've Told You For Years

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Over the years, we have written many articles exposing betting urban legends. We warned you about the guards dominate inductive non-thinking. In a football article, we enlightened gamblers of a truth that applies in all ATS sports gambling, “Actual straight up wins and losses have little bearing on handicapping”. Our article about how great offensive teams win big games was an epiphany for many.

Peter Tierana of has written a series of articles that are the “Top 10 indicators of overachievement” in the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament as well as the “bottom five” or more accurately stated: the top five indicators of underachievement.

Frankly little we read surprised us. Using objective numbers, ESPN measured “Performance against seed expectations” which simply put is a study of how often the higher seeded team wins, and what factors are most common when the lower seeded team wins.

Clients know we consider units won to be the most accurate way to measure a gambling system rather than winning percentage, because it takes sample size into consideration. We have decades of experience to prove that is more statistically reliable.

ESPN ranks their attributes based what they call PASE (performance against seeded expectations). At least from a handicapping standpoint, much like above, we consider the actual +/- wins to be the higher confidence level. Thus I used ESPN’s data but based statistical confidence using a different criterion.

Here’s a newsflash: most gamblers lose. In a related note, the overwhelming belief is “defense wins” championships and big games. We tell you time and time again, defensive intensity rises in the postseason making teams that can score big and tough baskets considerably more important.

Where’s Richard Dawson when you need him? Survey says teams that average scoring three points more than the tourney field are +46.8 victories. It is no surprise to us the highest +/- in the study using a single attribute.

Mercy me, guess what the worst +/- in the field is? Teams that have a points allowed per game below the tourney field average are -33.6 wins. The short of it is the biggest victim of upsets: superior defenses. The biggest culprits of pulling off upsets: superior offenses. Luckily for us, the subsidize-the-books gaming public believes it’s the polar opposite.

Teams with a margin of victory of 15 points or more had 244.7 “expected wins” but 288 actual wins, a +43.3 wins ratio. Margin is so much more accurate than wins and losses because luck plays no small part in winning or losing close games. Margin of victory validates a team’s truth strength. Of course from the gamblers standpoint, margin of victory is everything.

Tieran then did a follow-up article on “attribute pairings”. That is simply when combining two factors, what were the results. Of course because fewer games would be involved, by and large the +/- were not as high as when only one factor was needed. However PASE scores were generally higher.

The highest PASE of them all is at .509. It says teams that got more than 60 percent of the scoring from the frontcourt and at least one preseason All-American win at the most disproportionate rate relative to seed.

Like we said, so many teams have quality backcourts. There are so few teams have top level front courts. But those that do will advance in the Dance.

The “attribute pairings” in a modest surprise did though produce the highest +/-. Teams with more than four straight tourney bids and a one-game losing streak entering the tourney had 207.6 expected wins but 258 actual wins a +50.4 margin.

Not that the four-letter conglomerate needs any help from us, but ESPN Insider over the years has produced copious content of value to the sports investor. March Madness bracketology is high on the list of categories.

Be warned, the data takes a lot of time to synthesize, parse and apply to sports betting. Perhaps a better alternative is to find a professional handicapper who does it for you. Ahem.

Joe Duffy’s sports betting selections are at He is former General Manager of the Freescoreboard scorephone network and CEO of, the premier hub of world-class handicappers.

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