March 17 kicks off the 2015 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Millions of people will be filling out brackets and making predictions, but more than gut intuition needs to be taken into account when making choices.
If the NCAA Basketball Tournament is unfamiliar, the format is simple. A total of 68 Division 1 teams are invited to the tournament, with a win or go home style.
Two “play in” games shrink the field from 68 to 64, then every round after eliminates half the teams until one is left standing.
The tournament consists of 63 games played after the field of 64 is set, and is completed within three weeks.
There are exactly 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible bracket combinations. Those odds seem more than impossible to predict that coveted “perfect bracket”, however, many people are familiar with the NCAA tournament and probability in general.
For instance, all 64 teams are given a seeding [ranking], #1 to #16, with every seed having four of each.
A #16 seed has never upset a #1 seed, therefore it is safe to say all four #1 seeds advance. Thus, with some basketball knowledge and betting common sense someone can better their chances to picking a perfect bracket down to 1 in 128 billion, according to Mathematics Professor Jeff Bergen, at Depaul University.
“Assuming all 68 teams are equally talented and randomly assigned, I would say the probability that a given team wins the championship is around 1.47 percent,” Kevin Bodden, Lewis and Clark Mathematics Professor said.
While all teams are not equally talented, this goes to show the difficulty to predict a winner when anything can happen in a one game match-up between teams. Looking at last years NCAA tournament results shows this first hand.
Polling website, FiveThirtyEight.com, took in various mathematical variables of all 68 tournament teams from last year, and broke down each team’s chances to win in every round of the tournament, if they were to advance.
FiveThirtyEight.com gave the 2013 National Champions the best shot at 15 percent to win the entire tournament as a #4 seed.
However, the Louisville Cardinals did not advance past the third round, which they were given a 78 percent chance of winning.
Last years’ National Championship match-up came between the #7 University of Connecticut Huskies and the #8 University of Kentucky Wildcats, both of which were given less than a four percent chance of making it to the title game.
The final winner, UCONN, was given exactly a 0.664 percent chance to win the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“I usually choose the better team judging by their record, unless I know the better [seeded] team isn’t playing well, then I’ll pick the underdog,” L&C transfer student Riley Castleton said.
Luck and numbers might be the right formula to selecting that “perfect bracket”, as USA Today estimates that if every person in the U.S. filled out a bracket there would only be one winner every 400 years, maybe this is the year.
To compete in the L&C Bridge’s Bracket Tournament Challenge stop by Caldwell room 1311/1315 to pick up a blank bracket between March 9-17 to win an L&C goodies bag.
Contact Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org