A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship

Information Gain: The secret to a must-watch event

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Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Ce...

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TrueHoop makes an argument today in an article about the importance of parity in praise of uncertainty in sporting results that I think almost completely misses the mark:

Research suggests that more uncertain outcomes lead to more certain income, or … more pie.

There’s a reason that the TV deals for the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament both dwarf the NBA’s. In just about every game of the NFL season, and in just about every game of the NCAA tournament, you simply must watch to know what’ll happen. It all matters. You wake up the morning of the game with almost no ability to pick any winners. That’s the kind of thrill-ride that leads to enraptured fans and huge TV income.

Don’t confuse luck with parity 

Really, in every game you don’t know what happens in football and college basketball, but it’s a given in the NBA? Pshaw. I’ve tackled the issue of certainty/uncertainty here before on several occasions. Here’s the table from when I compared March Madness to the various pro playoff systems:

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March Madness as a Playoff System

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Candy

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I’ve previously analyzed the playoff systems of the 4 major professional sports leagues in the US, looking at fairness, which I’ve defined as follows:

Ideal fairness means that we get rid of the unevenness of the regular season schedule without adding too much randomness.  If you’ve got a variety of divisions or conferences that hardly play against each other, the idea that you can have a single champion without a playoff tournament of some sort is absurd – but of course playoffs in some sense always mean throwing out a larger sample size for a smaller one, which never entirely good.

We’re in March Madness season so it’s worth considering college basketball’s playoff system, arguably the most successful in terms of financial gains relative to regular season. This happens to be a particularly good season to consider this because all of the favorites are gone. Every team left has at least 8 losses, which either indicates a stunning amount of parity, or a ridiculous amount of luck.

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