Build Your March Madness Bracket With Historical Data Through Sigma
Written by Kristi Oloffson; Data Analysis by Jake Hannan, Sully Clark, and Fran Britschgi
The best month in college sports is here. We’re just days away from the Big Dance, and while your chances of a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 — wouldn't you like to increase those odds?
Enter our bracket competition here, then read below for how to up your chances of winning.
Our custom Sigma workbook contains statistics from every NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament game since 2013, plus current season stats.* We know every basketball fan values certain statistics over others: Use our workbook to adjust the stats most important to you — everything from steals and blocks over time, to field goal percentage and points per game. It’s up to you how much these stats matter. After you enter those values into the workbook, Sigma’s platform gets to work, showing what teams to pick based on the data you’ve decided matters most.
Remember: Sigma’s biggest value prop isn’t that we’re a dashboard, but a gateway. We connect you directly to your data, putting the power of data analysis in the hands of everyday users. No more coding languages required to analyze data and gain insights that drive action.
Make sure to enter both our men’s and women’s bracket competitions before brackets lock this Thursday, March 16, at noon ET for the men’s competition, and March 17 at 11:30 am ET for the women’s competition! Also watch our webinar with ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi to learn which stats should factor into your bracket the most.*
Analyze Historical Data With Team Matchups
The “Matchup Comparison” tab is a great place to start. Enter in two teams, pick the stat you care about most, and watch the data go to work to tell you which team is most likely to come out on top, based on historical tournament data. To analyze data from this year’s season, head to the next section.
For example, I plugged in my alma mater Indiana University, and compared them to Miami, who they’ll hopefully meet in the second round this weekend. I can compare them on individual stats, then select which season I want to compare — just this one, or all the tournament data since 2013. Personally, I’m most interested in PPG. For this stat, Indiana comes out on top, based on historical tournament data. Indiana is team 1. In 2015, Indiana was higher, but lately Miami has been better, so there may be a trend developing. I can't give up on my alma mater, but the data is making me think!
Build Your Best Bracket: Which Stats Matter Most?
Normally, when you build your March Madness bracket, you’re scanning articles across dozens of sports sites and social media, trying to decide what matters most. Now you can actually let the data tell you.
We’ve pulled some of the top stats for every team into this table, both historical and from the current season. Head to the Bracket Builder tab.
In this case, you as a user will be telling the Sigma workbook how much the following stats matter. You’ll assign them each a parameter.
1. Assign parameters for every statistic in the table between 1 and 10. You’ll notice that each stat currently has a value of 10, making them equal. If we left it this way, the workbook would make all of those statistics weigh the same amount in your bracket decision-making. However, we presumably want to give different values to each stat.
For example, let’s say I think that three-point percentage is twice as important as bench points. In that instance, I might put 8 for three-point-percentage and 4 for bench points. I’d assign a value to every stat in the table.
Play around with the parameters and read below how it would affect your bracket. For example, maybe you don’t think historical tournament performance matters at all. Or maybe it matters a lot.
2. How should I decide what’s important? In the Team Performance tab, take a look at the statistics of the men’s tournament winners for each year. This should give you a good idea of what winning stats look like.
For example, you’ll notice that the average field goal percentage for national champions has never dipped below 43.7%. And the South Region has had the tournament winner more than anyone else.
You can also re-watch our webinar with ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi where he gives his analysis on the tournament.
3. Every Team Gets a Score: Based on what you’ve decided is important, the workbook will automatically update by giving every team a score.
The Visualizations of the Stats You Care About
Now for the real fun: let Sigma work for you.
Based on how you’ve weighed each of the statistics for your data analysis, the “View Your Bracket” tab is going to automatically populate the winner of each game, based on the data fed into the workbook. Go by each region and see what the data tells you about who is most likely to win. Remember: you’re the driver here.
And just like that, we’ve got a projected final four and national champion, based on the inputs we decided.
Join Sigma’s Bracket Competition
Here’s the best part: this is only the beginning of what Sigma is designed to do. We hope you’ll choose the stats most important to you and build a bracket that will not only win your office pool, but also get closer to beating the odds of perfection.
How do you decide what’s most important? Watch ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi on our webinar to learn the stats that should factor into your bracket the most. Lunardi, the resident Bracketologist for ESPN who has been projecting the NCAA Tournament field for ESPN.com since its inception, breaks down the Tournament hopefuls and provides team analysis.
Finally, join our bracket competition, join watch parties in your city, and enter to win prizes. Make sure to fill out your bracket for the women’s tournament, which has one more day before brackets lock. Most of all, we hope Sigma allows you to find trends and make predictions never possible before.
*This year’s workbook, due to data availability and other constraints, only contains data from the men’s basketball tournament. We encourage you to enter both the men’s and women’s bracket competitions.