Author Andrew Clark breaks down March Madness

(http://www.actasports.com/bracketeering)

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is only a month away. And while it doesn’t look like Bruno will be dancing come March, it can’t hurt to get some expert info so you can finally win that pesky bracket contest.

So this Friday at 7pm, make a right at Tealuxe, walk down to Books on the Square, and meet Andrew Clark, author of “Bracketeering: The Layman’s Guide to Picking the Madness in March.” Clark, a law student at Suffolk University,  has developed a system that has helped him pick four out of the last six tournament champions.

Clark sat down with the Herald for an interview to dole out some of his secrets. Find out more about his statistical techniques, plus his sleeper for the upcoming tournament, after the jump.

The Herald: When did you first get the idea to write this book?

Clark: I originally started writing a book about basketball statistics when I was in high school. I broke my back in high school – while playing basketball, actually. I was in bed for quite a while, so I figured why not write a book about basketball? Over the course of six months, it became a 350-page manuscript. It wasn’t very well-written; I was 16. … So I started using statistics to pick teams for the tournament six years ago, during my senior year in high school.

What is your process for selecting tournament winners? Which specific statistics do you use?

Once the tournament is unveiled each year, the first thing I do is go on the NCAA website and look at the 20 statistics listed for each team. The most important ones to me are a team’s scoring margin – how much more the team scores on average than its opponent. It’s a consummate statistic that measures both how good the team is offensively and defensively. I use a statistic I created called Creative Possession Margin, which measures how many more possessions a team puts together than its opponents each game. It combines turnover and rebound margin. I look a lot at offensive efficiency. I will calibrate an average to see what effect an opponent will have on the other team’s ability to perform on offense. A team might be able to have all the possessions in the world, but if they’re unable to execute an efficient offense–it’s pointless.I want to see a team have a high percentage of its points coming from the free throw line, rather than a team that relies on three-point shots.

The book uses logic–don’t pick a 1 to lose to a 16–but there’s also these mathematical concepts in there. There’s a set of layman rules and then the statistics that anyone can utilize by just spending a few extra minutes.

Are you constantly refining the stats?

Yeah, I’m tinkering with it every year to see what works, which statistics work better than others. Each year, I keep looking to find new metrics that will help me understand basketball better.

Do you have any early favorites for this year’s tournament?

I’m a big fan of what I’ve seen from Ohio State and Kansas, statistically. There are very few teams that I think can be runaway favorites. I thought Ohio State was one of the most perfect teams — they had a +20 scoring margin, they were shooting nearly 50% from the field and they created 10 possessions a game more than their opponent. If I had to do a tentative Final Four, I would probably say Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Texas.

What about any surprise teams?

I’m a big fan of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. They are an awesome team statistically: a wicked high scoring margin, a high creative possession margin, and they don’t shoot threes or foul. The only weakness is that they’re not a good free-throw shooting team. But I think if they get a few good potential first and second-round matchups, they might be a surprise sweet 16 team.

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