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Economics prof employs his own method to March Madness rankings

January 23, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849

Bob Elder

Now that another college basketball season is heating up, Bob Elder has begun his second year of dominetrics.

Earlier this month, the professor of economics posted his first weekly basketball rankings. He will continue to update the rankings every Tuesday through the end of the regular season and through the selection of the NCAA post-season tournament field of 68 teams. 

Dominetrics was created by Elder and his colleague Scott Beaulier (who taught at Beloit during the 2007-08 academic year) as a way to offer an alternative performance measure to basketball rankings that they say is more objective.

The two say the NCAA Selection Committee currently takes a subjective approach because it uses the Ratings Performance Index, which is built around cardinal weights. They argue dominetrics should replace the RPI as the primary tool the NCAA Selection Committee should consult when selecting the 34 at large teams each year because the former focuses on ordinal rankings and removes some subjectivity from the RPI.

For example, Elder and Beaulier said if the NCAA Selection Committee had used the dominetrics results along with its RPI results, it could have avoided one of the biggest mistakes in NCAA tournament history: excluding San Diego State and including Arizona.

Elder and Beaulier, now of Troy University, wrote about the method in their February 2011 Journal of Sports Economics paper, “Employing ‘Dominetrics’ to Impose Greater Discipline on Performance Rankings.” In the paper, they also discuss how dominetrics is similar to the approach used to rank Tour de France cyclists.

             “Our dominetrics rankings seek to provide an objectivity-maximizing or subjectivity-minimizing ranking of teams that therefore should be of interest to fans of college basketball throughout the U.S. in general and to the people who are on the NCAA's tournament selection committee in particular,” Elder said.

He noted, however, that the dominetrics rankings are only intended to identify the teams that most deserve to be selected for participation in the NCAA tournament. He does not intend to forecast the performance of teams after the tournament starts.    

In the future, Elder hopes to expand dominetrics beyond sports by applying it to such topics as the economic freedom index and college rankings like the US News &World Report ranking system. 

For more information on dominetrics, visit here and click on “basketball rankings” to see the rankings themselves.

Source: Bob Elder is a professor of economics who joined the faculty in 1989 and teaches courses in macroeconomics, money and banking, econometrics, industrial organization, game theory, and mathematical economics. His professional interests involve applications of growth theory to economies in transition from central planning to free markets. Elder has held two Fulbright lectureships, one at the Krakow Academy of Economics in Poland and another in Riga, Latvia. More recently he has taught in the international MBA program at the Helsinki School of Economics. Elder can serve as a media resource on topics related to his research and teaching interests.