2021 NCAA Tournament Bracket Picks & Model Predictions: Using Data to Win Your Pool

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  • Our college basketball model projections can give you an edge in your NCAA Tournament bracket pool, even if you haven't followed the sport all year.
  • But don't take every team with a higher probability, as you need to get contrarian in some spots to separate yourself from the competition.

Everybody loves March Madness. But not everybody is paying attention to college basketball every day. That means there are a lot of people out there who need some guidance when it comes time to fill out a bracket. You want to take your friends’ money. We want to help you to do that.

I always wondered how KenPom, the most trusted name in college basketball analytics and forecasting, determined his projected final scores on his FanMatch page.

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Through a ton of Google searches, plus some trial and error, I was able to figure out the formula and project out a final score for any Division I college basketball game using each team’s efficiency and tempo numbers.

From there, I use a Pythagorean expectation formula to determine the probability of each team winning based on the projected final score. In the Excel sheet below, you will be able to figure out each team’s win probability for every possible matchup all the way through the National Championship.

However, there a couple of important notes that you need to read before using this to fill out your bracket:

  • DON’T fill everything out based on who has the higher probability. If you’ve been a part of a March Madness pool before, you know that you have to take some chances by either taking a few first-round upsets or pick a dark horse to make the Elite Eight.
  • The theory behind win probability is “what is the most likely scenario.” Do not take these percentages as gospel. Instead, use them as a guide.
  • Injuries are accounted for in this model, using a version of John Hollinger’s value added formula that has been modified for college basketball. At the bottom of the page, I have included some of the most important players who will miss the NCAA Tournament.
  • If a player is designated as questionable, they are included in the win probability as if they are playing. I will update the Excel spreadsheet accordingly once the news of whether a player is playing or not is made official.

Download the Excel file of the bracket with projections here


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