March 14, 2014

Big Data Competes in Perfect March Madness Bracket to Win $1 Billion

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On March 3rd, Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans rolled out the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge that pays $1 billion, with a B, to anyone with a perfect March Madness bracket. The chances of filling out a perfect bracket, just through the first round, are 13 million to 1 and a perfectly filled out bracket through all 63 games is 4,294,967,296 to 1. This is exactly the scenario where Big Data can drastically improve the odds. Tim Chartier is the Associate Professor of Mathematics at Davidson College in Charlotte, NC and for the last 5 years, he has taught his students how to build predictive models to try and predict the outcome of the NCAA college basketball tournament. In other words, they use Big Data to try and fill out the perfect March Madness Bracket. Have they been perfect?

On March 3rd, Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans rolled out the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge that pays $1 billion, with a B, to anyone with a perfect March Madness bracket. The chances of filling out a perfect bracket, just through the first round, are 13 million to 1 and a perfectly filled out bracket through all 63 games is 9 quintillion to 1. This is exactly the scenario where Big Data can drastically improve the odds.

Tim Chartier is the Associate Professor of Mathematics at Davidson College in Charlotte, NC and for the last 5 years, he has taught his students how to build predictive models to try and predict the outcome of the NCAA college basketball tournament. In other words, they use Big Data to try and fill out the perfect March Madness Bracket. Have they been perfect? No, but they are better than most beating over 8 million bracket entries which equated to 96% of the brackets submitted to ESPN last year. The students learn how to build the linear model in Chartier's Finite Math class. They then feed in data on over 5,000 regular season games and let their model go to work. It’s up to each student on what variables they use and how they are weighted.

We spoke with Tim today about the Analytics of Bracketology and the evolution of the March Madness Analytics Model.

How many students do you have this year submitting brackets?

"I don't entirely know. I have a class of 60 students but not everyone can submit. If you are a Division I athlete, you can't as it is considered gambling. I have about 10 research students testing new, more advanced ideas. I'll probably have 20 students from the 60 but there IS a billion dollars. So, I could bat with a very high percentage!"

How often do students fill their brackets out exactly the same or has it ever happened?

"I've never had that. There are enough parameters that it is very hard to have that for every game. BUT, the first year I had less parameters so many students had the same team winning everything. That doesn't even happen as much now given the flexibility of the idea."

What are a few variables that are used that are out of the ordinary?

"In terms of past years, it helps if you look at scores in buckets. For instance, you decide close games are within 3 points and count those as ties. Medium wins are 4 to 10 points and could as 6 points and anything bigger is an 11 point win. That's worked really well in some cases and reduces some of the noise of scores."

"Here is another that comes out of our most current research. This year's tournament will enable us to test it in brackets. We tried it on conference tournaments and it had good success. We use statistics (specifically Dean Oliver's 4 Factors) and look at that as a point, in this case in 4D space. Then we find another team that has a point in the fourth dimension closest to that team's point. This means they play similarly. Suddenly, we can begin to look at who similar teams win and lose against."

How are injuries, or if a key player is recovering from an injury, considered?

"This can be done but hasn't been done a lot. If you want to put that in, you down weight the game. Rather than saying it is a full game, you say it is 1/2 or 1/4 of a game. In this way, it doesn't have the same effect on the record."

Is human decisioning ever implemented if the model has picked a game winner by a very narrow margin?

"Yes. We often think this is VERY important. When things are close, you also want to look at data beyond our model – experience of the coach and performance of that coach in the tournament."

Do your students create models for other sports?

"Yes. We have applied to this the NFL. That's where we got the idea to treat close games as ties. We were able to have a more predictive model. Colleagues of mine at Furman University, looked at MLB and were able to rank batters and hitters. We've applied it to NASCAR and looked at predicting who would make the Chase. A student with the idea of using points in higher dimensional space moved that idea over to the UFC and found it to be predictive of who would win fights."

The Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge even pays if brackets aren't perfect. Quicken will award 20 of the most accurate brackets with $100,000 to be used for buying, refinancing or remodeling a home. The deadline to submit your bracket is March 18th.

Good luck! We're betting on Davidson College.

If you want more Analytics, Bracketology and Big Data, check out Tim’s book Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate Cover Pi, and other Cool Bits in Computing .

Article written by Todd Nevins for icrunchdata news Austin, TX

Read 1217 times Last modified on March 14, 2014

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    I visited {multiple|many|several|various} {websites|sites|web sites|web pages|blogs} {but|except|however} the audio {quality|feature} for audio
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    {Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hello}, i read your blog {occasionally|from time to time} and i own a similar one and i was just {wondering|curious} if you get a lot of spam {comments|responses|feedback|remarks}?
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    Greetings! {Very helpful|Very useful} advice {within this|in this particular} {article|post}!

    {It is the|It's the} little changes {that make|which will
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    {I really|I truly|I seriously|I absolutely} love {your
    blog|your site|your website}.. {Very nice|Excellent|Pleasant|Great} colors &
    theme. Did you {create|develop|make|build} {this website|this site|this web site|this amazing site} yourself?
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    {would like to|want to|would love to} {know|learn|find
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    {Thanks|Many thanks|Thank you|Cheers|Appreciate it|Kudos}!|
    {Hi there|Hello there|Howdy}! This {post|article|blog post} {couldn't|could not} be written {any better|much better}!
    {Reading through|Looking at|Going through|Looking through} this {post|article} reminds me of my previous roommate!
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    {Pretty sure|Fairly certain} {he will|he'll|he's going to} {have a good|have a very good|have a great} read.
    {Thank you for|Thanks for|Many thanks for|I appreciate you for} sharing!|
    {Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just} like my old one!
    It's on a {completely|entirely|totally} different {topic|subject} but it has
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    {There is|There's} {definately|certainly} {a lot to|a great deal to} {know about|learn about|find out about} this
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    {You made|You've made|You have made} some {decent|good|really good} points there.

    I {looked|checked} {on the internet|on the web|on the net} {for more info|for more information|to find out more|to learn more|for additional information} about the issue and found {most
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    {Hi|Hello|Hi there|What's up}, I {log on to|check|read} your {new stuff|blogs|blog} {regularly|like
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    I {simply|just} {could not|couldn't} {leave|depart|go away} your {site|web site|website} {prior to|before} suggesting that I {really|extremely|actually} {enjoyed|loved}
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    I {always|constantly|every time} spent my half an hour to read this
    {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}'s {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content} {everyday|daily|every day|all
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    I {always|for all time|all the time|constantly|every time}
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    My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the {expenses|costs}.

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    Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it?

    {Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|
    {Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day}!

    I could have sworn I've {been to|visited} {this blog|this web site|this website|this site|your blog} before but
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    {Disgrace|Shame} on {the {seek|search} engines|Google} for {now not|not|no longer} positioning this {post|submit|publish|put up} {upper|higher}!
    Come on over and {talk over with|discuss with|seek
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    {Thank you|Thanks} =)|
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    {Hi|Hello|Hi there|Hello there|Howdy|Greetings}, {I think|I believe|I do believe|I do think|There's no
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    {I just|I simply|I merely} wanted to {give you a|provide you with a} quick
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    {A person|Someone|Somebody} {necessarily|essentially} {lend a hand|help|assist} to make {seriously|critically|significantly|severely}
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    {create|make} {this actual|this particular} {post|submit|publish|put up} {incredible|amazing|extraordinary}.
    {Great|Wonderful|Fantastic|Magnificent|Excellent} {task|process|activity|job}!|
    Heya {i'm|i am} for {the primary|the first} time here.
    I {came across|found} this board and I {in finding|find|to find} It {truly|really} {useful|helpful} & it helped
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    {Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day|Hey there}!
    {I just|I simply} {would like to|want to|wish to}
    {give you a|offer you a} {huge|big} thumbs
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    I {always|all the time|every time} used to {read|study} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} in news papers but now as I am a
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    Your {way|method|means|mode} of {describing|explaining|telling}
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    {Hi|Hello} there, {I found|I discovered} your {blog|website|web site|site} {by means of|via|by the use of|by way
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    {Hello|Hi} there, {simply|just} {turned into|became|was|become|changed into} {aware of|alert to} your {blog|weblog} {thru|through|via} Google, {and found|and located}
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    {I'm|I am} {gonna|going to} {watch out|be careful} for brussels.
    {I will|I'll} {appreciate|be grateful} {if you|should you|when you|in the event
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    {A lot of|Lots of|Many|Numerous} {other folks|folks|other people|people} {will be|shall be|might be|will probably be|can be|will likely be} benefited {from your|out of your} writing.
    Cheers!|
    {I am|I'm} curious to find out what blog {system|platform}
    {you have been|you happen to be|you are|you're} {working with|utilizing|using}?
    I'm {experiencing|having} some {minor|small} security {problems|issues} with my latest {site|website|blog} and {I would|I'd} like to find something
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    {I am|I'm} {extremely|really} impressed with your writing
    skills {and also|as well as} with the layout on your {blog|weblog}.

    Is this a paid theme or did you {customize|modify} it yourself?
    {Either way|Anyway} keep up the {nice|excellent} quality
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    this one {these days|nowadays|today}.|
    {I am|I'm} {extremely|really} {inspired|impressed} {with your|together
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    {Is this|Is that this} a paid {subject|topic|subject matter|theme} or
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    {Hi|Hello}, Neat post. {There is|There's} {a problem|an issue} {with your|together with your|along with your}
    {site|web site|website} in {internet|web} explorer, {may|might|could|would} {check|test} this?
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    {I'm|I am} not sure where {you are|you're} getting your {info|information}, but {good|great} topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning {more|much more}
    or understanding more. Thanks for {great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent}
    {information|info} I was looking for this {information|info} for my mission.|
    {Hi|Hello}, i think that i saw you visited my {blog|weblog|website|web site|site} {so|thus}
    i came to “return the favor”.{I am|I'm} {trying to|attempting to} find things to {improve|enhance} my {website|site|web site}!I
    suppose its ok to use {some of|a few of} your ideas!\

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