Monday, March 23, 2015

Pythagoras & Aristotle Report on March Madness - How peculiar those Americans - The Sweet Sixteen


Enough from the sports analysts, arm chair point guards, loud mouth fanatics, news and entertainment personalities, geeks and computers, after two or three rounds, the first of many odd math facts attached to March Madness, we have sixteen teams left.

The bracket says three rounds were played but reality says we went from 64 to 32 teams (1st round), then 32 to 16 teams (2nd round).  My math says two rounds.  We have left 16 to 8 (3rd round), 8 to 4 (4th round), 4 to 2 (5th round), and the championship (6th round).  Since when did a play in by a couple of teams constitute a tournament round?

Clearly, no one involved in the billion dollar March Madness money machine worries about details like accuracy, math, or specifics, just the bottom line.  Well the bottom line started out with Kentucky the favorite and after two or three rounds, nothing has changed.

The first rounds destroyed the East coast, or specifically the Northeast, as a perennial powerhouse of teams which seems a logical shift, but that is part of the analysis to come.

For insights free of the often-hysterical outbursts by all our specialists, I have channeled Pythagoras, ancient Greek mathematician, and Aristotle, ancient Greek philosopher, to get their analysis of what is going on.

First, they offered as background a review of the definition of "Madness", as used in the made-for-TV phrase March Madness.  Does the term "Madness" contribute to the branding of the NCAA championship?

Here is their composite definition:



The definition of madness:
1. insanity, mental illness, dementia, derangement, lunacy, instability
2. folly, foolishness, idiocy, stupidity, insanity, lunacy, silliness 
3. frenzied or chaotic activity

The synonyms for various states of madness:
1. mania, psychosis,
2. craziness
3. bedlam, mayhem, chaos, pandemonium, craziness, uproar, turmoil, disorder, all hell broken loose, (three-ring) circus

According to my learned ancients, it would appear the term indeed describes the state of chaos resulting from March Madness.

Pythagoras was most interested in the mathematical puzzles, assumptions, thesis and hypothesis involved in seeding, results, conferences, and all the other trivia associated with the payoffs.  Some of his observations included conference power rating, note the numbers represent the conference standings of the tournament teams, not the NCAA seedings.

So far through the first two or three rounds here are conference results.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Conference champion (1) Virginia lost
(2) Duke, (3) Notre Dame, (4) Louisville, (5) North Carolina, (7) North Carolina State won

Pac 12
One team lost
(1) Arizona, (2) Utah, and (4) UCLA won

Big East
Top five teams lost
Only (6) Xavier remains

Big Ten
Five teams lost
(1) Wisconsin and (3) Michigan State remain

Big 12
Five teams lost
(3) Oklahoma and (4) West Virginia remain

Four teams lost
(1) Kentucky remains

Missouri Valley
One team lost
(1) Wichita State won

West Coast
One team lost
(1) Gonzaga remains

Pythagoras is also curious about the relationship between tournament seedings, and actual results to date, so here are the stats.

Seeds Surviving
 1.        three teams  Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke
 2.        two teams     Arizona, Gonzaga
 3.        two teams     Notre Dame, Oklahoma
 4.        two teams     North Carolina, Louisville
 5.        two teams     West Virginia, Utah
 6.        one team       Xavier
 7.        two teams     Wichita State, Michigan State
 8.        one team       North Carolina State
11.        one team       UCLA

Other Pythagorean factoids to bear in mind:

No team whose name began with a "V" survived the opening rounds, four teams lost.

Three teams whose name began with a "N" and three whose name began with a "W" made the Sweet Sixteen, along with two whose name began with "U".

North Carolina was the state with the most teams, three, while Kentucky and California had two teams each.

Roughly speaking, the geographic distribution of teams is:

Northeast - 1
Southeast - 3
Midwest - 8
West - 4

Of those from the Midwest, six were east of the Mississippi River, and two were west of the Mississippi River.

As far as mascots, which interested Aristotle, here are the teams, seeding and mascots.  As you can see, there are two Wildcats, Kentucky and Arizona, and little else in common among the schools.  Aristotle seemed most interested in the Spartans of Michigan State.

1 Kentucky Wildcats       

1 Duke Blue Devils      

1 Wisconsin Badgers    

2 Arizona Wildcats       

2 Gonzaga Bulldogs ('Zags)        

3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish   

3 Oklahoma Sooners     

4 Louisville Cardinals      

4 North Carolina Tar Heels      

5 Utah Utes        

5 West Virginia Mountaineers    

6 Xavier Muskeeters          

Michigan State Spartans     

7 Wichita State Shockers  

8 NC State Wolfpack       

11 UCLA Bruins


Of course one stat that is not in the formula is the fan intensity and the cheerleader impact and we can thank the lowest seeded team for bringing along the highest rated cheerleaders to the tourney, eleven seeded UCLA.

So what do my friends Pythagoras & Aristotle think of this unique American past time? 
Stay tuned.

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