Bracketmaster basics

The Bracketmaster gives users a window into the database I’ve been building for 23 years on tourney stats. It enables you to submit queries to the database using any combination of 18 statistics. Then it returns the round-by-round record of teams fulfilling the conditions you specify, along with their cumulative PASE value—a measure of their degree of over- or underachievement.

For some of you, this explanation may be obvious. Others don’t quite get the hang of it. Every year, I answer a number of post-Selection Sunday emails from people who wonder where to find the current tourney field in the Bracketmaster, or just can’t figure out how to work the darn thing. The fact is, the Bracketmaster only contains the results of tourneys that have already been completed (the “2013” date is in there for database purposes only). It will never have the current year’s tourney field in it. The philosophy is that past tourney trends can provide some insight into how you should fill out your bracket for the impending tourney.

That’s the easy misconception to clear up. Now, for those of you who struggle to make sense of the Bracketmaster, here’s a quick primer. There are 18 stats you can examine in your search queries. While only 12 are visible in the default view, if you click “More Options” at the bottom of the grey rectangle, you’ll get six more.

Some of the statistical fields have single drop-down menus, like “Round Reached,” “School,” “Conference,” “Coach” and “All-Americans.” Others have two menus, allowing for you to set a range for the statistic.

So let’s say you wanted to know how ACC teams seeded one through six have done in the dance over the last decade when they had an experienced tourney coach, an All-American and a high-powered offense averaging at least 77 points per game. Here’s what you’d do:

  • Under “Conference,” pick “ACC”
  • In the first menu under “Seed,” you could specify “1,” but “Any” includes the lowest seed possible, so there’s no need
  • In the second drop-down, pick “6″
  • For “Year,” pick “2003″ in the first menu and leave the second menu open, since “Any” will take you up to 2012′s results
  • For the coach’s bids, you want to put “2″ in the first column, since you’re interested in coaches that are making at least their second trip to the dance
  • Under “All-Americans,” pick “At Least One”
  • For points per game, under “Team PPG,” type “77″

Now that you have all your conditions defined, hit the “Submit” button. You’ll see that 12 teams fulfill your conditions. They’ve gone 40-9 (.816), won three championships and overachieved at a +.118 PASE rate. If you want to see who the 12 teams are that meet these conditions, click “view search results.” You’ll get a pop-up window that lists the teams by year, along with their coach and record.

That’s a more complicated query than the average Bracketmaster user might feel up to submitting. Of course, you can also answer easy questions like, “How has Michigan done in the 64-team tourney era?” (Answer: a 28-14 record, three Final Four appearances, a championship, and an overachieving PASE of +.239.) Or “How do one through six seeds coming into the dance with a two-game losing streak or worse fare in the tourney?) (Answer: 71-49 with an underachieving PASE of -.135 and just one championship; I’d steer clear of them.)

This should give you the basics of working with the Bracketmaster.

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