March Madness: Scientific research for NCAA basketball bracketology

March Madness: Scientific research for NCAA basketball bracketology

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CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 9, 2015 – Each year when the college basketball season comes to an end, much of the country waits eagerly to see who will be selected to compete for the national championship. Anticipation and rivalries are keen to see which of the so-called “bubble” teams will receive a bid.

Players eagerly hold their collective breath for the opportunity to compete. Coaches use selection to the tournament as a recruiting tool. Universities see it as a cash-cow for the school. And the fans, well the fans enter selection pools ranging from a fistful of dollars to thousands of greenbacks as everyone becomes a part-time “expert” to pick the winners.

Fans living on what was once called “Tobacco Road” in North Carolina are all too familiar with the phenomenon. Time was when the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Basketball Tournament was as big, or bigger, in the southeast than the NCAA championship itself.

In those days only one bid to the college tournament was awarded, and in order for an ACC school to get the invitation it had to win three gut-wrenching games in a winner-take-all sudden death championship series.

Today almost every conference has a tournament, but something is different. The difference is the expansion of March Madness by the NCAA so that now conferences can send multiple schools to the big dance.

Today, the selection process alone has become an annual event despite the fact the 75 percent of the field will be eliminated in the first weekend of competition. In the process, the national “guessing game” of who will win each of the four seeded divisions to play in the national semi-finals and championship games has led to something called “bracketology.”

In any given year, one conference or another, can dominate the college basketball scene. Like all good sports debates, fans from various sections of the country will argue to the death about which league is best. In the southeast, however, especially where the ACC was once half its current size, the conference has consistently been among the best in the nation for decades.

Duke and North Carolina have had well-established basketball programs with so many Final Four appearances that it is considered a regional catastrophe if one of those teams is not among the final elite.

With so much tradition in the annals of college basketball history, there had to be a reason why the ACC has been such a dominant force in college hoops. A little research provided the answer, and it is a sure bet that this bit of inside information can be used as a guide for your 2015 NCAA basketball tournament choices.

Three programs were chosen for analysis based upon the cumulative records and personalities of their coaches. Two coaches have passed away and one remains active; therefore the numbers are still a work in progress.

Jim Valvano of North Carolina State was as popular as any coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history, with respectful honorable mentions to Lefty Driesel of Maryland and Bones McKinney of Wake Forest. “Jimmy V,” who lost a battle with cancer far too early, came to the Wolfpack only week apart from fellow rival and close friend Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

Valvano captured two ACC tournament titles en route to 346 career victories. Perhaps he is most famous for running on the court looking for someone to hug when his team won the national championship in 1983. The scene is so dynamic and typical of Valvano that it is replayed almost as often as the Carlton Fisk home run in game six of the 1975 World Series.

It is difficult to believe that Dean Smith was once burned in effigy on the Chapel Hill campus at North Carolina because his early career was so undistinguished. Smith recently died, and his legacy will live forever in the minds and hearts of college basketball fans everywhere for compiling 879 victories, 13 ACC championships and 2 NCAA championships during his career.

Finally, with over a thousand wins as a head coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has also racked up 13 ACC nets and 4 NCAA championships, and the number is growing. For now, Coach “K” is the only coach in college basketball history with more than a thousand wins.

Those three coaches alone have over 2,200 victories with less than 750 defeats including seven national championships and 28 Atlantic Coast Conference trophies.

So what is it that defines these championship caliber mentors?

The answer is that they all had distinctive noses!

And that’s it. If you want to select the most winning teams in your NCAA bracket this year, just check out the nose on the coach and pick the most prominent proboscis.

The NCAA college basketball tournament has long been a breathtaking event. And now you know why. It’s because so many teams are able to “win by a nose” when a game is on the line.

Jim Valvano, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski had one thing in common; they could all smell a victory.

So “pick your nose” and happy bracketology.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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