BRACKET STRATEGY #8: Pulse Check Stats

Risk: Medium

Results: 2010 – 90th percentile in the ESPN Tourney Challenge; 2011 – 18th percentile. OVERALL AVERAGE – 54.0 percentile.

Strategy: This is a three-year-old model. After advancing one seeds two rounds and two, three and four seeds one round, I analyze teams based on the 15 key stats I’ve been using for the pulse checks on the blog (I actually added two that have are keys to deep runs--field goal percentage and percent of backcourt points). Here's a quick look at the stats:

• Did they go to last year’s dance? (An "N" gets a disqualifier)
• How many tourney trips has the coach made? (Should be three or more)
• How many times has the coach been to the Elite Eight? (At least once)
• What’s their conference affiliation? (Should be a Big Six conference)
• What’s their AP rating? (The top 15 avoid a disqualifier)
• What’s their strength of schedule (Anything worse than 40 is bad)
• What’s their possession-based Pythag ranking (Should be top 15)
• Where do they rate for offensive efficiency? (Must be 25 or better)
• Where do they rate for defensive efficiency? (Must be 25 or better)
• What’s their point scoring average (Should be 75 points per game or more)
• What’s their average scoring margin (Needs to be better than 10 points)
• What percentage of points do they get from guards? (Too reliant--higher than 60%--and they're at risk)
• What their combined rebounding/turnover margin? (Less than five won't cut it.)
• Is their starting unit two young? (Two or fewer junior/senior starters or an average class age less than 2.6--where 1=freshman, 2=sophomore, etc.--doesn't bode well.)
• MO – How’s their current momentum (any team with five losses in the last 10 or two in a row gets a disqualifier)
• PASE – Is their coach a tourney over- or underachiever? (A negative PASE gets a scarlet letter)

In all remaining matchups, I advance the team with fewer disqualifiers. When the two teams are tied, I advance the lower seeded team on the assumption that a) any higher seed with that many disqualifiers has issues, and b) this is supposed to be a crazy dance, darn it...so let's have at it. From the Sweet 16 on, if the two teams are within two disqualifiers of each other, I knock off the team whose worse disqualifier yields the lowest PASE. For instance, having bad defensive efficiency numbers (-.148 PASE) is much worse than averaging fewer than 75 points a game (-.079).

Outlook: The disqualifiers in our Pulse Check charts have been reasonably reliable indicators of tourney underachievers. I'm chalking up 2011's poor results to an aberration--a dangerous assumption I know, but that's why I'm still rating this model as a medium risk. If we get a repeat performance of last year, I'll boost risk level on this one.