by Matthew Stollak on Monday, March 12, 2012

Its mid-March...one of my favorite times of the year.  Why?  It means the Men's Division I NCAA basketball tournament, aka "March Madness" is about to begin.  As a graduate of Michigan State University, how could I not love it?  Over the past 14 years, Coach Tom Izzo has led the Spartans to 6 Final Fours and a National Championship.  This year looks promising for the Spartans as well, earning a number one seed in the tournament...which usually means success, as Izzo has made it to the Final Four three previous times as a number one seed.

One of my favorite metrics for the tournament (as well as filling out those darned brackets for the office pool) was coined by Pete Tiernan at CBS Sports -  "Performance Against Seed Expectations" or PASE - which compares a coach's actual winning record to his expected performance based on seeding.  According to Tiernan:
PASE is a simple concept.  Every seed has recorded an average number of wins per tourney in the modern era.  The average top seed wins 3.37 games per dance, two seeds win 2.43 (almost one game less), three seeds win 1.86 and so on.  When the coach of a top-seeded team wins four games to reach the Final Four, he overperforms by .63 games.  If he wins the championship, he exceeds seed expectations by 2.63 games.
By adding up a coach's year-by-year performance, one can come up with the average games per tourney he deviated from the expected victory total.  Associated with PASE, is what Tiernan calls "Seed Overachievement Rate," or "SOAR, which simply takes the number of times a coach has exceeded seed expectations out of the number of appearances.

So, who are the coaches that consistently outperform what they were expected to do?

Not surprisingly, Izzo leads the way.  Based on seeding, his Spartan teams should've won 22.3 games in 14 tournament appearances.  However, with Izzo's teams averaging about a 5 seed in the tournament (5.21), yet he has won 12.726 more games than what his seed should dictate, for a PASE of .909 (12.726/14); in essence, one should count on an Izzo team to win nearly one more game than the seed he is given.  Similarly, Izzo's teams have outperformed their seed 10 times in those 14 appearances for a SOAR of 71.4%  With a minimum of 5 tourney appearances, other coaches in this year's tournament who might carry one farther than expected:
*John Beilein of Michigan with a PASE of .705 and SOAR of 83.3%
*Steve Fisher of San Diego State with a PASE of .610 and SOAR of 36.4%
*Billy Donovan of Florida with a PASE of .563 and SOAR of 45.5%
*Jim Calhoun of UConn with a PASE of .493 and SOAR of 52.6%
*Rick Pitino of Louisville with a PASE of .466 and a SOAR of 46.7%
*Coach K of Duke with a PASE of .426 and a SOAR of 50.0%

Of course, there are those coaches who will let you down every year.  Who consistently underperforms?

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell has consistently been shown to be a bad bet in your brackets with a PASE of -.813.  In six trips, Purnell should have won five games based on seed expectations; he won none.  Kevin Stallings has been a victim of three straight one-and-dones for Vanderbilt - all of them when seeded fourth or fifth, earning him a PASE of -.373.  Some other coaches and teams you might be wary of heading into the Tourney (and in your office pool):
*Mike Montgomery of California with a PASE of -.419
*Mike Brey of Notre Dame with a PASE of -.370
*Dave Rose of BYU with a PASE of -.354
*Steve Alford of New Mexico with a PASE of .343
*Fran Dunphy of Temple has a PASE of -.341

Certainly, one could argue that perhaps it is a function of a poor job of the NCAA Tourney Committee who under- or over-seeded these teams in the first place.  However, over 5-plus appearances, actual performance seems to take precedence.

So, HR folks - who are your employees who exceed your expectations?  Do they match up with Coach Izzo's performance, or are you working with a number of Oliver Purnells?

....and good luck filling out your brackets.

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