bbusters

A data-driven look at all 61 BracketBusters matchups

At long last we know what the final, terrible edition of ESPN BracketBusters BracketEliminators will look like. As Jeff Eisenberg expanded on here, St. Mary's won out by drawing Creighton at home — a major potential resume booster.

Everybody else has matchups in which a loss will likely hurt their resume more than a win will help. Business as usual.

Even so, there are no tenable arguments that BracketBusters doesn't make for fascinating basketball thanks to matchups which would not normally be possible — a world that high-major programs (read: Bill Self and Wichita State) would never submit to.

John Templon did a bang-up job of ranking the televised matchups, and you can see the schedule for those games right here, but I wanted to know which of the 61 total games offer the hope for scintillating basketball. Afterall, the vast majority of the 122 BracketBusters team have no shot at an at-large tournament bid anyway.

With the help of Ken Pomeroy's rankings, Excel, Google Maps and some Ramen I found some answers.

First, I looked at ranking disparity. I paired all 122 teams with their respective Pomeroy rankings (as of yesterday) and found the difference when compared with the team that they've been matched up with for BracketBusters. This provided disappointing results: Milwaukee is ranked 317th, and IUPUI is ranked 315th, but nobody wants to watch that game. Whatever, here are the seven games which feature teams that are ranked within 10 of each other on Pomeroy. TV games are in red.

 

 

 

  Road Team Rank Home Team Rank Disparity
1 Northwestern St. 130 Niagara 129 1
2 Milwaukee 317 IUPUI 315 2
3 Pacific 118 W. Michigan 111 7
4 North Dakota St. 35 Akron 42 7
5 Eastern Illinois 304 Northern Illinois 311 7
6 Creighton 15 St. Mary's 23 8
7 The Citadel 330 Presbyterian 338 8

 

So I went in a slightly different direction. I found that if you look only at matchups with a disparity value of less than 50 and then sort those games by the Pomeroy ranking of the home teams, you end up with 12 of the 13 televised games, followed by Evansville at Wright State, Green Bay at Drake and Jacksonville State at UNC Asheville.

These are probably the top 25 percent of BracketBusters matchups, and a solid indicator that Stephen F. Austin (No. 59) at Long Beach State (155) might not be a great television matchup despite the fact that the 49ers have won eight straight.

 

 

 

  Road Team Rank Home Team Rank Disparity
1 Creighton 15 St. Mary's 23 8
2 Detroit 62 Wichita State 28 34
3 Ohio 71 Belmont 32 39
4 North Dakota St. 35 Akron 42 7
5 Denver 50 Northern Iowa 64 14
6 Iona 97 Indiana State 67 30
7 E. Kentucky 131 Valparaiso 83 48
8 Montana 142 Davidson 95 47
9 Pacific 118 W. Michigan 111 7
10 Canisius 107 Vermont 121 14
11 Northwestern St. 130 Niagara 129 1
12 South Dakota St. 101 Murray State 133 32
13 Evansville 110 Wright State 137 27
14 Green Bay 113 Drake 143 30
15 Jacksonville St. 203 UNC Asheville 159 44

 

Still, that didn't seem satisfying. Great basketball needs some feeling of rivalry. Atmosphere is part of the experience. So I used Google Maps to find the distances between every pair of schools for all 61 games, working under the (actually kind of silly) supposition that geographical proximity enhances atmosphere.

Anyway, it made for an interesting data set, so here are all 61 games, ranked by shortest driving distance given by Google Maps. I estimated for Hawaii. Television games are in red. There are more words after the data.

 

  Road Team Rank Home Team Rank Disparity Distance (miles)
1 Bowling Green 205 IPFW 286 81 91
2 Albany 186 Fairfield 108 78 145
3 Bradley 170 Illinois-Chicago 184 14 168
4 The Citadel 330 Presbyterian 338 8 171
5 Loyola Marymount 241 Cal Poly 165 76 191
6 Eastern Illinois 304 Northern Illinois 311 7 221
7 Gardner-Webb 192 Coll. of Charleston 135 57 239
8 Texas State 258 Lamar 341 83 253
9 Evansville 110 Wright State 137 27 275
10 Milwaukee 317 IUPUI 315 2 276
11 Savannah St. 206 Campbell 276 70 300
12 Jacksonville St. 203 UNC Asheville 159 44 304
13 Coastal Carolina 200 Western Carolina 237 37 338
14 Central Michigan 245 Youngstown St. 148 97 354
15 Ball State 252 SE Missouri St. 266 14 362
16 E. Kentucky 131 Valparaiso 83 48 364
17 Morgan State 248 High Point 213 35 370
18 SIU Edwardsville 281 Central Arkansas 265 16 371
19 Miami (Ohio) 255 Southern Illinois 221 34 371
20 Canisius 107 Vermont 121 14 374
21 Kent State 138 Loyola-Chicago 164 26 376
22 Morehead St. 195 Oakland 182 13 393
23 Sacramento St. 262 UC Santa Barbara 211 51 396
24 Manhattan 223 Buffalo 188 35 400
25 St. Peter's 294 Hampton 271 23 402
26 Ohio 71 Belmont 32 39 425
27 Green Bay 113 Drake 143 30 443
28 CS Northridge 187 Southern Utah 269 82 461
29 VMI 270 Marist 287 17 468
30 North Dakota 272 Nebraska-Omaha 321 49 497
31 Nicholls State 284 UT San Antonio 253 31 526
32 Idaho 179 Idaho State 334 155 534
33 Austin Peay 319 Liberty 292 27 537
34 Cleveland St. 243 W. Illinois 134 109 588
35 Radford 263 Siena 296 33 621
36 UMKC 329 Tennessee Tech 302 27 633
37 Charleston So. 163 Rider 191 28 688
38 Longwood 342 Tennessee Martin 327 15 689
39 Loyola-Maryland 127 Tennessee State 185 58 709
40 SE Louisiana 300 Winthrop 230 70 718
41 Missouri State 208 E. Michigan 246 38 733
42 Denver 50 Northern Iowa 64 14 797
43 Iona 97 Indiana State 67 30 808
44 South Dakota St. 101 Murray State 133 32 881
45 South Dakota 235 Montana State 260 25 916
46 Detroit 62 Wichita State 28 34 957
47 North Dakota St. 35 Akron 42 7 1008
48 UC Riverside 312 Portland State 299 13 1016
49 Northern Colorado 274 UC Davis 217 57 1151
50 McNeese State 314 Toledo 173 141 1193
51 Weber State 93 Oral Roberts 160 67 1213
52 Northwestern St. 130 Niagara 129 1 1353
53 Illinois State 65 Utah State 125 60 1359
54 UC Irvine 153 Texas-Arlington 168 15 1408
55 Cal State Fullerton 177 Texas A&M CC 322 145 1493
56 Stephen F. Austin 59 Long Beach St. 155 96 1618
57 Creighton 15 St. Mary's 23 8 1658
58 Sam Houston St. 234 E. Washington 308 74 2150
59 Pacific 118 W. Michigan 111 7 2277
60 Montana 142 Davidson 95 47 2324
61 Northern Arizona 301 Hawaii 202 99 2900
  Average 199.8   200.8 45.4 741.8

 

You'll notice that the average away team will travel about 740 miles for BracketBusters in 2013, part of the reason everyone hates the thing.

The average BracketBusters game will feature teams that are separated in the Pomeroy rankings by an average figure of 45.

Bowling Green (91 miles) has the shortest trip of any team. The Falcons are 1-1 all-time vs. IPFW.

Valparaiso, which traveled to California from Indiana for a BracketBusters loss at Loyola Marymount last year (Bryce Drew was sure to mention that on ESPNU yesterday) received an opponent in Eastern Kentucky that is less than 400 miles away — the easiest commute of any of the televised games.

Teams with ridiculous trips that won't even be on TV include Northern Arizona (~2,900 miles), Sam Houston St. (2,150) and Cal State Fullerton (1,493).

Why the Titans have to travel 1,493 miles to play an absolutely dreadful Texas A&M Corpus Christi team that has one total win over a D-I opponent this season (uhh, Lamar) is unfathomable.

Thankfully, the end of BracketBusters forever is near.

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