Analytical Models for Generating NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket Pools: Injecting Computation into March Madness

Speaker:  Sheldon H Jacobson – Urbana, IL, United States
Topic(s):  Applied Computing


Each year, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament attracts popular attention, including bracket challenges where fans seek to pick the winners of the tournament’s games. However, the quantity and unpredictable nature of games suggest a single bracket will likely select some winning teams incorrectly even if created with insightful and sophisticated methods. Hence, a participant may wish to create a pool of brackets that likely contains at least one high-scoring bracket. We propose several computational models to estimate the probability mass function of all possible tournament toutcomes based on past tournament data. Bracket pools are then generatedfor recent tournaments using these models. The generated brackets are assessed by the ESPN scoring system and compared to those produced by a traditional pick favorite approach as well as the highest scoring brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge for various years.  The results suggest that given a sufficiently large pool of brackets, such models are effective in capturing high scoring brackets with high frequency.  More information on this and related research can be found at

About this Lecture

Number of Slides:  30
Duration:  40 minutes
Languages Available:  English
Last Updated: 

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