Mercer Professor, Collaborator Bring Methods To March Madness

March 12, 2008

Mark Vanderhoek
(800) 837-2911, ext. 4037

MACON — For the past 14 years, Allen Lynch, associate professor of Economics at Mercer University, and colleague Jay Coleman, professor of Management at the University of North Florida, have been crunching the numbers trying to determine which teams will make it into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The pair’s “Dance Card,” a statistical model, has only once missed more than three teams and currently stands at 93.3 percent accuracy in predicting the “at-large” berths handed out by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

Lynch and Coleman are not just picking who gets in, they are now in their third year of using the “Score Card,” another statistical model, which helps to predict what teams will win their games once the madness begins.  Although predicting the winner of individual games represents a much more daunting task than predicting tournament entry, Lynch and Coleman still forecast winners reasonably well and continue to perfect their model.  Information about each model appears below.

Score Card
Using the results of the tournament games in the years 2000 through 2006, and numerous pieces of information based on (or derived from) the so-called “nitty-gritty report” for each of the two teams that played in each game, Coleman and Lynch devised the Score Card formula. The formula is as an estimate of which pieces of information were related to which team wins games in the tournament, and the weights that are placed on those pieces of information. 

The Score Card formula suggests that only four pieces of information about each team are related to performance in the tournament: RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) value (i.e., the "old" RPI value); the ranking of the conference the team comes from (using the non-conference RPI ranking of each conference); whether the team won its regular season conference championship; and the number of wins in the last 10 games.

The Score Card formula predicted 79.68 percent of tournament games correctly in 2007 and 67.2 percent of games in 2006.

For more information on the Score Card Formula, visit the professors’ web site: www.unf.edu/~jcoleman/score.htm

Dance Card
The Dance Card is a formula derived by Coleman and Lynch as an estimate of the decision rule that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee uses when picking the teams that will get at-large bids to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  Over the last 14 years, the Dance Card has correctly predicted 446 of the 478 available at-large Tournament slots or 93.3 percent.  Over the 8-year period, 2000-2007, for which the Dance Card has been used since its initial development in 1999 - based on 1994 through 1999 data - it has correctly predicted 254 out of the 273 available at-large Tournament slots 93 percent. The formula’s best years were in 2001 and in 2005, when it correctly predicting 33 of the 34 available at-large Tournament slots (or 97 percent accuracy).

The Dance Card can only be as accurate as the Selection Committees are consistent; it is an estimate of the Selection Committees' (not the authors') decision criteria.  The high level of accuracy and consistency of the model is strong evidence that the Selection Committees (which differ in composition each year) are actually quite consistent from year to year.

Lynch and Coleman, the Richard deRaismes Kip Professor of Operations Management and Quantitative Methods at UNF’s Coggin College of Business, published the Dance Card formula in Interfaces, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, in 2005.

Coleman and Lynch will be making this year’s final predictions on Selection Sunday, but their current analysis, which is updated regularly, can be found at dancecard.unf.edu.

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
www.mercer.edu.

Editor’s Note: Media interested in interviewing Lynch and Coleman or having them on air should contact Mark Vanderhoek at (478) 301-4037 or (800) 837-2911. Both can be available on “Selection Sunday.”
###

  • Atlanta Emergency Hotline Number: (678) 547-6111
  • Macon Emergency Hotline Number: (478) 301-5335