March Wisdom

March 18, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

I’m skeptical about the Wisdom of Crowds, at least when it comes to sports betting. I’ve blogged as much occasionally (the occasion usually being a big NFL game – see this post, for example).

Now Mark McClusky at Wired has taken up the fight in the arena of March Madness. The crowd whose wisdom he’s challenging is the ESPN online pool. Against them he pits “two top college basketball analysts.” Here’s a reduced spreadsheet with the large Crowd-Expert discrepancies highlighted. If you’re betting, it’s red for bad, green for good.

(Click on the chart for a larger view. The full spreadsheet is here.)

As McClusky notes, “most of the top seeds are highly inflated, especially Kansas.” Also, “Mountain West pair of San Diego State and Brigham Young are two of the best values out there.” He also said – and this article was posted Wednesday –

The single biggest gap between the two sets of picks? Utah State vs. Kansas State in the first round. According to the numbers, Utah State has a 57 percent likelihood of knocking off the higher-seeded Wildcats, but 73 percent of ESPN users have picked Kansas State.
Kansas State opened as 1 ½-point favorites. That line was bet up to 2. The Crowd was wise this time, both in their brackets and their bets. Kansas State 73, Utah State 68.

We’ll see how the rest of the tournament goes.

h/t Max

UPDATE, March 22: Never too late, the master of brackets Ted McCagg has finally posted his March Madness drawing (here).

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