March Madness Comparison Tool

on March 17, 2010

March Madness is here! Like millions of Americans, I sat down today and realized I had no idea who was going to come out on top. Who honestly has time to be an expert on every team that has a chance? I mean, North Iowa? Luckily, stats are readily available from the NCAA and I downloaded the offensive and defensive FG % to make this comparison tool.

The principle behind this viz is simple. Teams who play good offense generally score a higher percentage of their field goals. Teams who play good defense generally keep their opponents to a low field goal percentage. The best teams (high offense FG%, low defense FG%), are in the top right of this visualization. X's indicated teams that will not be continuing in the tournament. The darker blue the circle or X the higher their seed.

As you can see, most of the teams that are continuing are "Dominant", regardless of conference. Xavier, Northern Iowa and Cornell all moved on despite not being in "power conferences."

This may not encompass every stat, but the idea is that it would make seeing possible upsets and outliers easier. For instance, West Virginia is both highly seeded and highly ranked, but it is also one of the the worst performing field goal% team - they must be amazing rebounders or 3 pt specialists.

What we like about this viz

Simplicity: When making a sports statistics viz, the temptation is to throw every stat in at once. Usually this just ends up being confusing. This viz may not be comprehensive, but it is usable and it makes a point.

This post has been updated since its original posting.


Very cool I like the visual and I agree that March Madness is one of the most difficult sporting events to really figure out. I filled out a couple brackets at and all of them look like hamburger at this point! Northern Iowa really did me wrong, and I don't think your visual would have necessarily predicted it.

Hi there,
I like your March Madness Comparison Tool Post.The way you're maintaining the Statistics is good.Thanks for sharing.:)

Suggestion: use Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) instead. eFG% would work better here because it compensates for 3pt shooting vs 2pt shooting. Plain old FG% biases against teams that use the 3-point shot.

The formula for eFG% is FGM+(0.5*3FGM)/FGA.