Warren Buffett (right) will insure an NCAA Tournament bracket contest that will be worth $1 billion.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans are primed to pay $1 billion – that's B as in basketball, Barkley or Bozich – to anybody who can correctly forecast the final 63 games in the 2014 NCAA men's college basketball tournament.
Only the first 10 million perfectionists need apply. I read a story in the New York Times quoting a DePaul University mathematics professor who said that the odds against picking a perfect bracket are 9 quintillion to one -- that's Q as in impossible, ridiculous or forget about it.
That smells like disrespect to me. Bring it on, right?
We're nearly two months from serious work on a bracket but that's nearly as much money as the New York Yankees will pay their starting pitchers. It's time to work on cracking the code.
So I've already gone to work.
And although there is serious money at stake, I'm willing to share my preliminary research with faithful WDRB.com readers.
As a serious subscriber to Ken Pomeroy's basketball analytics, I looked at the profiles of the last 11 NCAA champions. (Pomeroy's on-line numbers begin with the NCAA title that Syracuse won in 2003). One of my favorite features on Pomeroy's site is that you can find a game-by-game look at how every team's season unfolded.
This is what I saw: None of the last 11 NCAA champions had taken more than three defeats by Jan. 22. If your favorite team has four or more defeats, consider yourself warned.
In fact, Louisville (2013) and Duke (2010) were the only two champs to take three defeats by this point in the season. Kansas was the sole unbeaten in 2008. Six eventual winners had two defeats. Two others (including Kentucky in 2012) had suffered only one loss by mid-January.
But that was only a start. If you appreciate Pomeroy, you appreciate his offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. He ranks all 351 Division I teams in those two categories.
The definition is simple: How many points does a team score per 100 offensive possessions and how many points does a team allow per 100 defensive possessions?
Two other clear profiles emerged. Ten of the last 11 NCAA champs ranked in the Top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency. The sole exception was North Carolina (think Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson) in 2009. That Tar Heels' team missed finishing in the top 20 in defensive efficiency by one spot. But North Carolina was clearly the best offensive team in the country, which is difficult to believe in Chapel Hill today.
Make certain you understand one thing: The offensive and defensive efficiency numbers for the last 11 NCAA champs are the numbers for where those teams ranked at the conclusion of the season –- not on Jan. 22. KenPom.com is my favorite basketball site. I visit dozens of times every day. But he does not have the game-by-game numbers (at least not yet).
So consider yourself warned that the comparison is not precise. The offensive and defensive numbers change every day -- and will continue to move until the final basketball is double dribbled.
But three teams have separated themselves as triple qualifiers -- unbeaten Arizona and Syracuse, as well as Pittsburgh.
The Wildcats and the Orange have been perched at the top of the polls for more than a month. They're legit. Pittsburgh is surrounded by more skeptics because of the Panthers' user-friendly non-conference schedule. Pitt plays two of its next three against Duke and Virginia. I'll check back on Jamie Dixon's team again.
Louisville qualifies in two categories, falling short in offensive efficiency. But considering the way Louisville played against Houston, Connecticut and Wednesday night while beating South Florida, 86-47, the Cardinals' numbers are trending in the right direction. I put Rick Pitino's team in the Close category -- with Michigan State, Wisconsin, Florida and five others.
There is a reason that John Calipari keeps saying that Kentucky has work to do on defense to become an elite team -- because it's true. Kentucky's offensive ranking (10th) is worthy of April basketball. The Wildcats rank only 39th in defensive efficiency. That won't work. Not if you plan to win six difficult games.
But I'll stay tuned to the numbers and deliver another year-to-year comparison in February. Warren Buffett will understand. There's $1 billion at stake.