## Final Four Seeds 2023

What is the sum of the seeds of the Final Four?

We’ve previously asked this question as part of our numeracy series. As the high school kids say: Gotta get those (mathematical mindset) gainz.

“If you asked me right now to update my belief,” Wharton Professor Eric Bradlow said before the Sweet Sixteen, “about the sum of the seeds of the Final Four I’m trying to decide if I would be over or under 10.5.”

One seeds account for about 40% of the Final Four teams, and two seeds account for 20%.

The historical mean has been 12 and the average sum 11.

But things are trending higher.

Maxims for Thinking Analytically suggests we use extreme examples, like Bradlow. What’s the lowest possible sum? It sounds like 10.5 is a lot. But if one region’s best case is three and another is two how low can the total go? The book also reminds the reader, “the world is more uncertain than you think.”

That thinking leads to something like the Aaron Rodgers touchdowns graph. Though more unlikely individually, there are many ways for the sum of the seeds to be higher than the historical average.

## This = that

A short list of our fast thinking.

Expensive = good. This is many places, one of which is the opening story in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence.

Action = progress. Used well when Headspace ‘embodied’ meditation. Used less well when helicopter parents hover.

The category = the JTBD. For example, the Leatherman was not a knife it was a tool, not a tool but a gadget. Similar, the 3M Command Strips solve the job rather than fill the category.

1×20,000 != 20,000x 1. This is the idea that averages don’t always convey the best information. A small bit of something regularly is not the same as all of something at once. The Credit Karma Save program for instance. Travel too, writes Rory Sutherland is like this.

Argument = dislike. Part of the obstacle to arguing well is our social and evolutionary norms. (Added 3/30/2022)

Unrelated, we can update the base rates on March Madness. The cumulative Final Four seedings continues its trend, this year the sum is 13. The first post on March Madness matchups is here.

## ‘Good’ numbers

This summer my kids were not going to watch too much YouTube. But, things changed. My eleven-year-old got into Moriah Elizabeth, a YouTuber into decorating and painting. Her channel is good. It’s interesting and entertaining. It, for me, avoids the overreactions and clickbait present on YouTube. She’s super positive and if not teaching kids how to be creative at least she shows them that it’s okay to mess up, laugh it off, and try again.

She wrote a book, Create this Book where each page is a prompt to draw only with polka dots, or draw a structure, or draw something without lifting your pencil from the page. We bought it. It’s fun. We do a page a day and laugh at or admire our drawings after.

This is to say that not all screen time is equal. But it’s easy to count and present equally. Apple offers a Sunday notification that your screen time was higher/lower than last week. That’s not really helpful. It would be like if a refrigerator displayed the calories consumed but not what exactly someone ate.

It also happens, says Betsey Stevenson, at the macro level during each jobs report. There’s the unemployment number and the initial response is that more workers are better. However it kinda depends on the timescale.

“When we see the ‘quits’ numbers really high that seems bad. In the short run we’re going to see fewer jobs. But it’s actually an optimistic time.” – @BetseyStevenson The Ezra Klein Show

People tend to quit their jobs when times are good and the next job is immediate. As people move about in the economy it follows that wherever they land will probably be a better fit, a win-win for everyone. But that’s hard to quantify.

One way to flip this problem is to restructure the counts. Basketball coach Todd Golden will redraw the lines on a basketball court. If a player shoots from inside the arc it’s worth one point. Shots outside the arch are worth four. That’s clever counting. Restructuring the way a player perceives the points is a way to find the ‘good’ numbers.

## How to complete next year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket

A quarantine activity in my sister-in-law’s family is buying stocks. Stonks. Gamestonks? Each week, each kid, gets five dollars. They invest in whatever they want.

The best returns, to date, are from my niece. She’s 8. Her name begins with ‘T’ so her stock choices begin with ‘T’. She owns Tesla.

My three nieces and nephews aren’t competing but they do demonstrate that in small groups the best way to outperform others is ‘be chalky.’ Picking favorites is called chalky because in the days of horse racing, tracks wrote the lines on chalkboards with chalk. Even then, people liked betting favorites, so those odds were updated more often and had fresher chalk marks. Hence, ‘betting chalk’.

The same structure works for winning in any small group. To outperform, bet chalk. **However in a large group, choose variance.** Be different, and be right. We know that something will happen. We just don’t know which something.

One way to think through this approach is to consider the sum of the NCAAM final four team’s ranks. This question was posed on Wharton Moneyball and we have an answer: 11. On average, two number one seeds make it to the final four each year. Only in 1993 did all one seeds make it to the FF.

Yeah, but Covid!

That’s what I thought too. When Cade Massey proposed that it might be a more variable season I thought, base rates be dammed it’s going over. But that’s probably wrong (Narrator: It was not).

What I missed what something Daniel Kahneman wrote about in TFaS: substitution.

Rather than answer the question: Will the sum of the ranks of the final four teams be larger than average this year? I substituted the question: Will there be more variance this year?

What I missed was the idea behind hurdle technologies. In food preservation there’s not just one way that keeps food safe to eat, but a bunch. Food might be too acidic and be cooled and be sealed. It’s the combination of things, a series of obstacles, which limits bacteria.

That same idea applies in a bracket. Oral Roberts (#15) beat Ohio State (#2) and Florida (#7) but had to face Arkansas (#3) too, who won.

Ultimately the final four seeds totaled 15 (1,1,2,11). My direction was right. My reasoning was wrong.