Ticket Reserve Market Tells Us Who Was Dissed by the Selection Committee

Michael Giberson

The 65-team field selections had barely finished being announced on Sunday when CBS commentators began complaining about the selections and the seedings. One ESPN story on the subject is online here. Sports commentators are paid for maintaining audience, and controversy probably keeps an audience tuned in, but what does the market data say about the seedings?

Ticket Reserve price data from before and after the selection reveals a market response to the tournament seeds. (I described Ticket Reserve in a prior post, here.) I collected data from the Ticket Reserve website just before Sunday’s selection show, and then again on Tuesday morning. Since little new information on the expected tournament performance of teams has entered the market except for the announcement of the tournament selections and seedings, I’m asserting that the market response is due to the informational surprises contained in the selections/seedings.

Sure, the analysis is a bit loosey-goosey here — I’m not doing serious econometrics, just looking at simple changes in bids and asks, and drawing inferences. If you want more careful analysis, email me and I’ll send you the data.

The data is in the form of bids and asks for Ticket Reserve “fan forwards” for the NCAA men’s basketball regional and final four games. They are offering two levels of fan forwards for the final four games, so each team has three sets of bids/asks. If, since the seedings were announced, bids and asks for a team have tended to go up, it suggests that they were given a better seeding than expected. Alternately, if the bids and asks have fallen, it suggests that the team was given a worse-than-expected position in the field.

Simple enough? Okay, lets look at the data.

In short, the clear “winner” in the seedings was UCLA. For UCLA, all bids and asks were up after the Sunday announcements, and it was the only team with all six data points higher. Boston College and Tennessee also did well relative to the rest, with bids and asks either higher or unchanged.

Losers, relative to market expectations, were Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Memphis, and, less dramatically, Illinois and George Washington. All of the Memphis bids and asks fell after the announcement (and it was the only team with all six data points lower), and 5 of the six bids/asks fell for Pittsburgh and Ohio State. Illinois and GW bids and asks either fell or were unchanged.

The fall in the Memphis bids and asks is hard to explain, especially for the regional fan forward, given that they are the #1 seed in the Oakland Region. Memphis contract holders can’t be worried about #16 Oral Roberts, can they? Perhaps #8 Arkansas is more of a threat then Memphis fans hoped for. The market suggests no: both the #9 Bucknell and Arkansas best asks for the regional fan forward also dropped slightly after the announcement. By the way, UCLA is #2 seed in the Oakland Region.

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