JR Swift’s Blog

What I’m Thinking About Today

Numbers

Posted by jrswift on March 3, 2007

I love numbers. More particularly, I love statistics and all the fascinating things I can do with them. As a child, I fancied myself a huge baseball fan but the truth is that I enjoyed the game far less than the seemingly endless numbers which it generated. I used to spend sleepy summer afternoons computing (well, back then I did it by hand and calculator) various meaningless ratios and percentages from the previous year’s baseball yearbooks or from the far more limited information published in the local paper. (Yeah…I should have gotten out more, I know.) When I got to college, I discovered Bill James and all the other sabermetricians out there who actually cared as much (probably more) than I did about how all this fit together. Computers and the internet soon allowed unprecedented access to more numbers than I could even begin to imagine. But I kind of stopped caring. I discovered sports like basketball which generated far fewer numbers but far more excitement and I also discovered that there were more interesting ways to spend a sleepy summer afternoon.

But once a year I awaken the statistical geek hidden (perhaps not hidden that well) inside of me and that is during the lead-up to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I’ve never been a huge fan of those tournament pools because I don’t really think there is much skill involved but I became totally obsessed with how the teams were selected to the field of 65. I guess that I was a bracketologist long before anyone had coined the phrase. It probably didn’t hurt that my hometown heroes (the Kansas Jayhawks) always seemed to be involved in the discussion though, fortunately, rarely as to whether they belonged in the field or not.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be speculating, pontificating and analyzing the prospects for this year’s tournament field. That’s not unusual. I’ve been doing that for 15 years. What is unusual is that I’m going to blog about it which is a first. Tomorrow I’ll have a rather lengthy posting on what teams I think are already in the field and some of the contenders for those last few spots. As the week goes on, those teams will be analyzed in more detail and we’ll look at what might make the difference between making the field or going home. As I’ll be out of town next weekend and won’t be back until after the field is announced, I’ll have to put my predictions out there well before the conference tournaments have ended. That will mean throwing in quite a few conditional choices but I suspect the early choices won’t really differ that much from what I would have come up with after several more days of analysis.

As this is a topic of some debate, I welcome your comments and insights. There is one thing to keep in mind: I’m not really trying to choose the best teams. I’m trying to choose the same ones the selection committee will. So be sure to filter your comments with that in mind. Have a great day.

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