Spicks and Specks

More on Mid-Major At Large Teams: I used my 1998-2009 analysis of Mid-Major At Large (MMAL) teams discussed here to develop a graphic visualization that can be used to predict Cinderella Points based on the number of MMAL teams in the tournament. Here’s the graph (click it for a larger version):

The numbers across the bottom represent the number of MMAL teams in the tournament. Four to twelve is the historical range during the survey period, though there have never been eleven MMALs in a given year. (Note that it’s hard to go back any deeper than 1998 because the conferences changed so dramatically around that time, and because that’s when the BCS came into being, which, I believe, is when the cards began to be institutionally stacked against MMALs). The vertical axis represents Cinderella Points (the sum of the seed numbers for surviving teams at each round). The four clusters of data and exponential regression trendlines defining them are, from top to bottom, for the Round of 32, the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four. As noted in the prior post, the strongest positive correlation between MMAL’s and higher Cinderella Points occurs in the Sweet Sixteen, and you can see graphically how higher MMAL numbers actually correlate to lower Round of 32 Cinderella Points. So, in concept, once you know the number of MMAL’s in the tournament, you can go up that line to get the predicted Cinderella Points for each round.

Based on my analysis of the NCAA D-I rankings and standings at this point, I’m going to go out on an optimistic limb and predict that there will be nine MMALs this year: four from the Atlantic 10, two from the Mountain West Conference, and one each from the Missouri Valley Conference, the West Coast Conference and Conference USA. So using the predictive trendlines in the graph above, that should result in 181 Cinderella Points in the Round of 32, 72 Cinderella Points in the Sweet Sixteen, 25 Cinderella Points in the Elite Eight, and 10 Cinderella Points in the Final Four. I’ll report back when the field is selected to see if my optimism was warranted for the number of MMALs, and adjust my Cinderella Point predictions accordingly, and then at the end of the tournament to see how well the predictive model held up.

Meanwhile, In Space: Great news on a planetary exploration front, as the Cassini mission to Saturn has been extended for seven more years. Hurrah! What a good and worthy mission this has been, and I can’t wait to see how many more amazing images and discoveries it provides us before this yeoman space craft plunges into Saturn in September 2017. On Mars, Rover Opportunity just passed the twelve mile mark, still trucking along on its way to Crater Endeavor. Unfortunately, it’s sister rover Spirit has been re-designated as a fixed probe after being stuck in sand for a year. It’s handlers need to adjust its position over the next couple of months to get its solar panels lined up in better position if it’s to survive the upcoming Martian winter. Fingers crossed. And while we’ve still got five more years to wait before New Horizons arrives at Pluto, some Hubble Telescope images indicate that we’re going to see something amazing when it gets there. Such a good time to be a space nerd, even with President Obama’s (probably wise) decision to abandon a near-term mission to the Moon. I always remind myself that nearly 60 years elapsed between Magellan’s Crew’s first circumnavigation of the globe and Francis Drake’s second one. So by that metric, as long as we make it back to the Moon by around 2033, we’re on the same sort of schedule. (I’m considering the entire Apollo program as a single “voyage”). That doesn’t mean that many sailors’ explorations of Africa and the Americas between Magellan and Drake weren’t worthy and valuable, anymore than it doesn’t mean that our exploration of low Earth orbit with the International Space Station is useless. We learn by exploring, and sometimes monumental firsts are so audacious that it can take a long, long time before they can be duplicated.

Meanwhile, In The Ether: Things are loading up hot and heavy over on the Upstate Ether archive, and I’m seeing things over there that I had thought were long, long vanished into the Internet pipes. Those are some busy Overlords. I’m not sure whether to be horrified or humored by “Safe In The Neighborhood: Wintermute vs Drunknard.” Either way, it kept me reading until the end.

Meanwhile, In Music: Give yourself a Gold Star if you know where the title of this post came from. A Geek Gold Star.

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