The 2012 TrueHoop Stat Geek Smackdown

The 2012 TrueHoop Stat Geek Smackdown is alive.

This year's contestants:

  • Newcomer Arturo Galletti, who hails from Puerto Rico and works with a model from the Wages of Wins principles developed by former champion David Berri.

  • John Hollinger, the ESPN.com writer and analyst who has come close but has yet to win the Smackdown.

  • Stephen Ilardi, a professor at Kansas and consultant to the Phoenix Suns who narrowly missed first last year.

  • Former champion Jeffrey Ma. The movie "21" and book "Bringing Down the House" are about his real life. He wrote "The House Advantage" and is now CEO of tenXer.

  • Benjamin Morris, who joined the contest for the first time last year and won it. He has a blog at Skeptical Sports.

  • Matthew Stahlhut, a sports gambling consultant who played along from home two years ago and "won," then played for real last year and came in third.

  • My mom.

  • And this year, a new contestant, a "wisdom of crowds" entrant, representing the collected wisdom of dozens of ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers. A similar model has been more accurate than the Las Vegas line two years running (during the regular season).

The quant analysts are in unanimous agreement that the Bulls, Heat, Pacers, Celtics, Spurs and Thunder will win their first-round series.

The two series featuring teams from Los Angeles, however, are all over the place. In the case of the Nuggets and Lakers, picks are as varied as Lakers in five and Nuggets in six. In the case of the Grizzlies and Clippers, everyone expects the series to last at least six games, and nobody has a lot of conviction about who will win.

There's also something very interesting happening with the Spurs. They're seen as one of many contenders in the eyes of most experts. But in this crowd, they're very special indeed, with one model showing them as a bigger favorite than "the field," which is almost unheard of at this stage.