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Early Round Upsets and Championship Blowouts

  • Rick Harbaugh

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

  • Tilman Klumpp

    (Department of Economics, Indiana University)

In equilibrium play of a two-round tournament we find that underdogs exert more effort in the opening round while favorites save more effort for the final. Ability differences between players are therefore compressed in the opening round so upsets are more likely, and amplified in the final so blowouts are more likely. Measures that reduce the need to strategically allocate effort across games make for a more exciting final but a less exciting opening round. Consistent with the model, introduction of a one-day rest period between regional semi-final and final matches in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was found to increase the favorite’s victory margin in the semi-finals by about five points. Non-sports applications of the model include the allocation of resources across primaries and general elections by candidates and the allocation of resources across a career ladder by managers.

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File URL: http://kelley.iu.edu/riharbau/RePEc/iuk/wpaper/bepp2004-09-harbaugh-klumpp.pdf
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Paper provided by Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2004-09.

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Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Economic Inquiry, 2005
Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2004-09
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