Early Round Upsets and Championship Blowouts
23 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2004
Date Written: September 2004
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.
Keywords: Contest, tournament, all-pay auction
JEL Classification: L83, D72, D44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation