Inefficiencies in NCAA totals?

The NCAA March Madness tournament provides the opportunity for several testable hypothesis with regards to the best team rankings systems and which styles of play are suited for tournament performance. In a contest sponsored last year by TeamRankings, for example, one of my two submissions looked at the effect of distance on team performance.  The blog is linked here.

Teams travel for games held each weekend, either Thursday/Saturday or Friday/Sunday. Because the games are held at neutral sites, most of which teams never previously played at, each team is at a disadvantage with regards to slight lines, angles, and court minutiae. This could, theoretically, lead to lower than expected total points scored in the first set of games played at each site. Alternatively, when teams get familiar to the court and their surroundings, offensive output could increase in future games.

Over the last 6 years (including this years games so far, here is the round by round performance of expected Las Vegas total).

Round 1: Over is 88-108-4

Round 2: Over is 58-36-3 

Round 3: Over is 17-23

Round 4: Over is 12-8

All together, that’s a pretty healthy difference for each round, with the expected differences found for Rounds 1/3 (Under) and Rounds 2/4 (Over). Check out the totals this weekend, and, based on this, expect the under to hit during the Thursday/Friday games and the over for Saturday/Sunday.


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