March Madness Comparison Tool

By Ross Perez 16 Mar, 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.


Submitted by Wade Tibke (non vérifié) on

Ross - great Viz. It really makes you wonder how W Virginia won so many games. They must get a lot more shots per game than their opponents. Would be great to see an overlay of steal, rebounds or shot/game to get a sense of how they do it.

Submitted by Ed Feng (non vérifié) on

Nice!! But first, it's Northern Iowa, a favorite of a hoops junkie like me who loves hard nosed teams that execute well. It would be nice to incorporate other variables, like points scored from the foul line. This is probably how West Virginia wins so many games. Also, this doesn't account for strength of competition, a big factor.

I have my own site that does college basketball and a little viz:

As you can see, I'm a big fan of viz and sports.


Submitted by Robert Moreau (non vérifié) on

Genius! Love it!

Submitted by Ross Perez on

Thanks all for your comments.


Love your site and the fact that your using visualization- you should punch your numbers into tableaupublic and then embed the viz in your site. I imagine you could do a good deal with it.

Sorry it was not very comprehensive... admittedly the strength of competition issue is a large one. Next time!


Submitted by phoneranger (non vérifié) on

you shd add a size dimension 0-1-2-3 for how many rounds each team lasts.

Submitted by Steve Polge (non vérifié) on

The biggest issue with using those stats is that they don't reflect the quality of the opposition. Having a great defensive field goal percentage in the Big East or ACC conferences is a lot more impressive because of the quality of the competition. That's what stats like the Ken Pomeroy offensive and defensive efficiency stats try to measure (they aren't perfect either - I like Duke, but I think it's overrated in those rankings). Check out these efficiency stats at

Submitted by Kieht (non vérifié) on

The problem with your WVU plot is that you plotted the wrong data. WVU's Field Goal % defense in 42.4 and their offense is 43.4 (I checked their stats on your NCAA link).

Submitted by Ross Perez on

Thanks for the catch! The viz has been updated...

Submitted by Ed Feng (non vérifié) on


Thanks for looking at my site. I definitely have plans for Tableau public in the near future.


Submitted by Rob Shell (non vérifié) on

Interesting how none of the teams that made it to the final four are Dominant Teams. Michigan State and West Virginia are both Lucky or Tenacious while Duke and Butler are both Defensive Powerhouses. I agree that this viz needs to factor in more variables, but it does provide a good starting point.

Submitted by Wade Tibke (non vérifié) on

Totally agree. I think the bottom left quadrant should be called the "don't play pretty but just seem to win". That would describe Duke/WV/MSU...