The persistence of underdogs, part 3

April 2, 2011

While our previous diagram captured many of the appropriate quantitative virtures of understanding how far different seeds make it in the NCAA basketball tournament, it was not particularly good looking. Below is a refined version of our diagram.

fraction of seeds per NCAA tournament round

The first thing we improved was the “orthogonality” of our previous diagram by using Bezier curves to smoothly transition between rounds of the tournament. We think that the smooth transitions make the diagram easier to follow, but waffled on whether the shadow between the rounds is useful. The shadow does make it easier to see the relative height of the bars on each round, but also makes a semi-3D effect that we are still not sure if we like.

We also improved the color scheme to better emphasize the persistance of underdogs in the tournament. Shades of grey represent the 9-16 seeds, all of which should be eliminated after the First Round of the tournament. Shades of blue represent the 5-8 seeds, all of which should be eliminated after the Second Round of the tournament. Shades of green represent the 3-4 seeds, all of which should be eliminated after the Sweet Sixteen. Brown represents the 2-seed, which should be eliminated after the Elite Eight. And orange represents the 1-seed, which should always win the tournament.

Finally, we added a grey stroke to the curves and shadows between rounds to make it easier to identify patterns for particular seeds over subsequent rounds of the tournament.

Obviously, this continues to be a work in progress, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments! In particular, how can we bring something back into the diagram that evokes the sense that we are looking at a tournament bracket?

contributors to this post

headshot of Dean Malmgren
headshot of Mike Stringer
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