March Madness 2013: Why March Is Always 'Madness'

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March Madness 2013: Why March Is Always 'Madness'
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’ve all been there before.  It’s the classic dinner-table dispute over the quality of any two given sports teams.  For me, the dispute always arises with one of my best friends from Pittsburgh:

The matchup?  A diehard Pitt Panther versus a Penn Stater who bleeds blue and white. 

The result?  A conversation that usually ends up looking a little something like this:

Me:  “Penn State could crush Pitt this year, Pitt looked terrible against Wagner.”

Him: “Stop it, Penn State is an embarrassment to the Big Ten.”

Me:  “Oh really?  Well, we beat South Florida this year, who beat Pitt TWICE!”

Him: “You want that game? Pitt took care against Duquesne, something I believe Penn State couldn’t accomplish.”

A game indeed.  And a game that most of us have probably played our entire lives.  Well, we beat Team X who beat Team Y who crushed Team Z, so theoretically we should handle Team Z with ease.

And it makes sense, right?

I think in mathematical terms it is called the transitive property.  You know, that property we are all brainwashed with in sixth grade?  If a is greater than b, and b is greater than c, then we can conclude that a is greater than c. 

Logical enough…except when it isn’t.  Extrapolation of the property is dangerous.

Take basketball, for instance.  Haven’t you wondered why March Madness is always madness?  Why isn’t there ever a year when the favorites simply win?

So have I.

In the 2011 NFL season, I stumbled upon a graphic the week after the Chiefs knocked off the Packers.  It was entitled, “Any Given Sunday” and it demonstrated how every team in the NFL could be linked, theoretically, to having beat another team. 

Example: The Chiefs beat the Packers who beat the Bears, who beat the…do you get the picture?  It was an absolutely intriguing graphic, and it seemed to show, in a sense, why you had to bring your A-game each and every Sunday.

Then I had a crazy thought.

What if the same could be done for the 2011-12 season of NCAA college basketball?  We weren’t just talking 32 teams here, we were talking about 344.  Yes. Three hundred and forty four.  Was it even possible?  My heart said yes, my brain said no. 

There was only one way to find out. 

So I tried.

And what did I find?  Well naturally, it was possible.  That’s right.  After nearly three-and-a-half weeks of mind-numbing and exhaustive data collecting, the pieces fell into place.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Could Pat Chambers and his Nittany Lions really be proved to be the top team of the 2011-2012 NCAA Basketball season?

How did it work?  Of course, I started with Penn State.  I had to prove that my favorite team was indeed the best in the land.  At least until I connected the cycle. 

You can find my extensive results listed below.  This should go to prove that any table talk of “this team beat that team so therefore this team is better than that team” is simply fallacious.

The table reads as follows.  Begin with Penn State.  Penn State beat Illinois, 57-54. (Score listed to the right of Illinois).  Illinois beat Ohio State by five, who beat Duke, who beat North Carolina, who beat Michigan State…you get the idea.

But, see?  I had already proved that Penn State theoretically should beat Duke, UNC, MSU and Ohio State.  Golden.   In fact, you can use this table to theoretically prove that any team in the nation is better than any other team in the nation!

Even lowly Navy.

And, ah yes, I almost forgot.  If you are “one of those” people who like to throw scores around, I must set you straight too.  You know who you are.  The people who say, well Central Michigan beat Toledo by 16, who beat Northern Illinois by 30, who beat Miami (Ohio) by three, who then beat Belmont by five.  Therefore, Central Michigan could beat Belmont by at least 50!

Not. So. Fast.

By calculating the margin of victory from every team in my list, who Penn State theoretically would beat, one could come to the conclusion that Penn State should easily beat Kentucky by: wait for it...approximately 3,151 points.

But wait, I almost forgot.  Kentucky and Penn State did play.  Final score?  85-47. 

In favor of Kentucky, naturally.

 

Team Score Margin of Victory
Penn State


Illinois 54 52 2
Ohio State 79 74 5
Duke 85 63 22
North Carolina 85 84 1
Michigan State 67 55 12
Lehigh 90 81 9
Bucknell 56 53 3
Holy Cross 75 41 34
Lafayette 70 63 7
Army 90 74 16
Colgate 79 59 20
Navy 69 63 6
Mount St. Marys 64 56 8
American 49 42 7
St. Joes 66 60 6
Drexel 62 49 13
Virginia Commonwealth 64 58 6
Hofstra 80 63 17
Cleveland State 63 53 10
Vanderbilt 71 58 13
LSU 76 61 15
Marquette 67 59 8
Connecticut 79 64 15
Notre Dame 67 53 14
Syracuse 67 58 9
Georgetown 64 61 3
South Florida 75 45 30
DePaul 75 59 16
Pittsburgh 84 81 3
Providence 86 74 12
Louisville 90 59 31
Seton Hall 60 51 9
West Virginia 67 48 19
Cincinatti 77 74 3
Villanova 82 78 4
St. John's 79 76 3
St. Francis (NY) 63 48 15
Bryant University 80 67 13
St. Francis (PA) 59 56 3
Fairleigh Dickinson 69 63 6
St. Peter's 73 62 11
Canisius 74 60 14
Marist 67 57 10
Loyola Maryland 72 54 18
Iona 87 81 6
Rider 75 62 13
Manhattan 88 77 11
Fairfield 53 51 2
Niagara 77 69 8
Siena 58 54 4
Princeton 63 59 4
Harvard 70 62 8
Pennsylvania 56 50 6
Cornell 54 52 2
Yale 85 84 1
Columbia 59 58 1
Dartmouth 64 62 2
Brown 58 53 5
Rhode Island 65 56 9
Massachusetts 81 78 3
Fordham 80 76 4
George Washington 63 58 5
Charlotte 60 52 8
Richmond 75 70 5
LaSalle 78 76 2
Duquense 71 68 3
St. Bonaventure 66 52 14
Dayton 81 73 8
Temple 87 77 10
St. Louis 72 67 5
Xavier 73 68 5
Southern Illinois 87 77 10
Bradley 77 60 17
Indiana State 68 60 8
Evansville 90 81 9
Creighton 65 57 8
Wichita State 68 61 7
Missouri State 74 67 7
Northern Iowa 61 60 1
Drake 66 52 14
Illinois State 77 60 17
Rutgers 76 70 6
Florida 85 83 2
Alabama 61 52 9
Arkansas 72 66 6
Mississippi State 98 88 10
Tennessee 62 58 4
Auburn 64 49 15
Ole Miss 69 68 1
South Carolina 66 62 4
Georgia 57 56 1
South Dakota State 72 61 11
Oral Roberts 75 60 15
Oakland 93 86 7
Western Illinois 74 70 4
North Dakota State 55 51 4
Southern Utah 72 69 3
IUPUI 72 64 8
South Dakota  88 70 18
UMKC 76 57 19
IPFW 81 66 15
Valparaiso 85 76 9
Loyola Illinois 66 62 4
Illinois Chicago 78 69 9
Youngstown State 72 68 4
Green Bay 77 47 30
Wright State  57 56 1
Milwaukee 70 46 24
Detroit 84 74 10
Butler 76 65 11
Stanford 71 66 5
USC 51 43 8
Utah 62 45 17
Arizona State 64 43 21
Oregon State 76 66 10
UCLA 87 84 3
Washington State 63 60 3
California 77 75 2
Washington 69 66 3
Arizona 79 70 9
Colorado 71 57 14
Air Force 76 73 3
Boise State 74 59 15
TCU 65 64 1
Wyoming 58 52 6
UNLV 68 66 2
Colorado State 82 63 19
New Mexico 71 63 8
San Diego State 77 67 10
Long Beach State 77 73 4
Cal State Fullerton 75 61 14
UC Santa Barbara 99 86 13
UC Riverside 60 52 8
UC Davis 59 54 5
Pacific 73 64 9
Cal State Northridge 62 61 1
Cal Poly 94 81 13
UC Irivine 77 74 3
San Diego  99 79 20
Loyola Marymount 60 57 3
Saint Mary's 75 60 15
Gonzaga 83 62 21
BYU 74 63 11
San Francisco 81 56 25
Pepperdine 78 63 15
Portland 70 65 5
Santa Clara 84 78 6
Eastern Michigan 75 55 20
Ohio 68 55 13
Kent State 87 65 22
Buffalo 76 71 5
Akron 82 70 12
Bowling Green 79 68 11
Ball State 61 54 7
Western Michigan 78 69 9
Central Michigan 64 61 3
Toledo 85 69 16
Northern Illinois 71 41 30
Miami (OH) 62 59 3
Belmont 66 61 5
Mercer 82 78 4
USC Upstate 73 66 7
North Florida 77 52 25
Florida Gulf Coast 88 81 7
East Tennessee State 72 63 9
Lipscomb 66 57 9
Stetson 99 91 8
Kennesaw State 75 59 16
Chattanooga 65 59 6
Western Carolina 78 62 16
Citadel 68 56 12
Appalachian State 62 51 11
ELON 81 66 15
UNC Greensboro 93 79 14
College of Charleston 73 66 7
Georgia Southern 58 53 5
Wofford 63 49 14
Furman 79 72 7
Western Kentucky  76 63 13
Florida Atlantic 64 57 7
Troy 88 67 21
Louisiana Monroe 91 63 28
Florida International 54 50 4
South Alabama 65 62 3
Arkansas State 74 57 17
North Texas 75 72 3
Arkansas Little Rock 75 67 8
Louisiana Lafayette 72 70 2
Denver 72 71 1
Middle Tennessee State 75 60 15
Austin Peay 80 71 9
Tennessee State 69 63 6
Murray State 72 68 4
Tennessee Tech 82 74 8
Morehead State 66 55 11
Eastern Kentucky 57 54 3
Southeast Missouri State 63 59 4
Jacksonville State 74 56 18
Eastern Illinois 63 45 18
SIU- Edwardsville 73 66 7
Tennessee Martin 69 65 4
UAB 59 54 5
Tulane 81 73 8
Southern Methodist 80 74 6
Tulsa 57 55 2
Houston 72 48 24
East Carolina 82 76 6
Marshall 69 68 1
UCF 65 64 1
UTEP 63 45 18
Memphis 60 58 2
Southern Miss 60 58 2
New Mexico State 80 72 8
San Jose State 79 63 16
Fresno State 79 71 8
Utah State 60 54 6
Louisiana Tech 69 55 14
Hawaii 74 70 4
Idaho 76 70 6
Nevada 72 68 4
Montana 70 64 6
Northern Arizona 78 60 18
Sacramento State 73 64 9
Northern Colorado 73 62 11
Eastern Washington 71 70 1
Montana State 69 52 17
Idaho State 73 69 4
Weber State 64 62 2
Portland State 88 81 7
Seattle 66 65 1
Longwood 100 99 1
Virginia Military 110 89 21
UMBC 84 79 5
Towson 62 58 4
UNC Wilmington 66 61 5
William and Mary 68 66 2
James Madison 68 61 7
Hampton 74 67 7
High Point 68 64 4
Radford 71 62 9
Delaware 58 54 4
George Mason 65 60 5
Albany 66 46 20
Hartford 72 60 12
Maine 63 49 14
New Hampshire 80 69 11
Boston University 56 54 2
Stony Brook 61 55 6
Binghamton 82 48 34
Vermont 57 53 4
Old Dominion 65 63 2
Northeastern 69 57 12
Georgia State 60 57 3
Utah Valley 71 68 3
Texas Pan American 77 69 8
Cal State Bakersfield 73 67 6
NJIT 72 70 2
North Dakota 72 57 15
Chicago State 75 69 6
Houston Baptist 65 56 9
Bethune-Cookman 76 74 2
South Carolina State 70 59 11
Gardner-Webb 73 68 5
Campbell 78 72 6
Iowa 77 61 16
Wisconsin 72 65 7
Purdue 67 62 5
Michigan 75 61 14
Minnesota 61 56 5
Northwestern 75 52 23
Mississippi Valley State 92 67 25
Grambling State 79 60 19
Alabama A&M 75 72 3
Alcorn State 81 71 10
Arkansas Pine-Bluff 66 58 8
Southern University 64 58 6
Texas Southern 56 54 2
Alabama State 67 59 8
Jackson State 49 46 3
Prairie View A&M 62 48 14
Stephen F. Austin 53 50 3
UTSA 59 51 8
Texas-Arlington 97 88 9
Sam Houston State 75 63 12
Texas A&M Corpus Christi 61 53 8
Texas State 74 68 6
Central Arkansas 94 63 31
Southeastern Louisiana 64 63 1
Northwestern State 66 61 5
Nicholls State 92 61 31
McNeese State 78 75 3
Lamar 57 54 3
Rice 87 81 6
University Maryland-Eastern Shore 81 49 32
Howard 78 65 13
Coppin State 70 66 4
Norfolk State 87 82 5
LIU-Brooklyn 73 62 11
Sacred Heart 103 91 12
Quinnipiac 78 75 3
Robert Morris 73 69 4
Monmouth 81 73 8
Central Connecticut State 68 60 8
Wagner 78 61 17
Delaware State 85 62 23
North Carolina Central 76 60 16
Florida A&M 78 61 17
North Carolina A&T 87 77 10
Morgan State 62 61 1
Liberty 81 69 12
Charleston Southern 75 74 1
UNC-Asheville 93 88 5
Presbyterian 66 58 8
Winthrop  48 45 3
Coastal Carolina 67 57 10
Clemson 60 59 1
Wake Forest 71 60 11
Boston College 71 56 15
Florida State 64 60 4
North Carolina State 76 62 14
Miami (FL) 77 73 4
Maryland 90 86 4
Georgia Tech 61 50 11
Savannah State 65 45 20
Jacksonville 73 70 3
Samford 70 57 13
Davidson 77 74 3
Kansas 80 74 6
Texas 69 66 3
Texas Tech 74 57 17
Oklahoma 65 47 18
Texas A&M 65 62 3
Oklahoma State 76 61 15
Missouri 79 72 7
Iowa State 76 69 7
Baylor 80 72 8
Kansas State 75 73 2
Virginia Tech 69 61 8
Virginia 47 45 2
Oregon 67 54 13
Nebraska 83 76 7
Indiana 70 69 1
Kentucky 73 72 1
Penn State 85 47 38

And lastly, a special shout out goes to:

  • Davidson for your big W on the road against Kansas.  That was clutch.
  • American, thanks for the win over St. Joseph's.  Needed that.
  • Rutgers, great upset of Florida.  Appreciate it.
  • Although I already mentioned it, Miami (Ohio) over Belmont was huge.
  • Binghamton, your absolute stunner over Vermont saved my entire spreadsheet.
  • And last but not least, Houston Baptist.  Your early season victory over Bethune-Cookman could not have been a more beautiful sight to my then-glazed-over eyes.
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