Last year, Kansas and Duke were neck and neck as the Win Probability favorites heading into the tournament. However nearly 50% of fan picks on ESPN and over 50% of the picks on Yahoo! had Kansas as their champion. Which is why on March 19, 2010 I wrote the post: “Q: What’s Wrong With Selecting Kansas in Your Pool? A: You’ve Probably Already Been Eliminated” That was before Kansas was upset. My point was that even if Kansas ultimately were to win the championship, so many other entries had selected them that your pool’s winner would more likely be determined by early round points or tie-breaker rules. In effect, picking such an overwhelming fan favorite was tantamount to drawing a lottery ticket.
This year, fan picks are impressively more rationally distributed (if “rational” is defined as I define it: being in line with Pomeroy ratings.) Ohio State is the biggest favorite, but not out of proportion to its Win Probability. As I type this, some 26% of ESPN entries have Ohio State as the champ, as do some 31% of Yahoo! entries. This compares to a survival rate for OSU of some 24%.
What this means is picking Ohio State is not a lottery ticket this year. If you’re making only a single entry, you need a pretty wacky scoring method, or a pool in the hundreds or thousands to make an entry with OSU as the champ an irrational choice.