Math Improves March Madness Predictions

A sophisticated computer-assisted process can improve the chances of predicting the winners in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Inside Science Television

Ask Inside Science: 

How many possible ways can I fill out a tournament bracket?

An astoundingly high number: 147,573,952,589,676,412,928, or put another way, every man, woman, and child living on Earth would each have 21 billion unique ways to fill out the form. The huge number comes from the fact that there are 67 games, and two possible outcomes for each game (either team has the chance to win). To figure out the number of possible ways for the tournament to progress, you multiply 2 by itself 67 times to provide the number of different ways to fill out the tournament bracket. The number 2, when multiplied by itself, grows into a very large number after just a few times.

Can I use Dr. Chartier's method for bracketology?

Dr. Chartier's computer-assisted method is not yet available for others outside of his classroom, but he and his students are developing an app using the prediction method that they are hoping to make available for future tournaments. In the meantime, some of the links above describe Dr. Chartier's approach and methods.

Inside Science Buzzwords:

  1. March Madness - The period of time (held mostly in March) that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) holds a single-elimination tournament wherein 68 college basketball teams compete to determine the national champion of college basketball.
  2. Tournament Brackets - The form that shows the games in the NCAA tournament, and includes spaces for the winners of each game, arranged in a tree diagram that shows the teams and the different rounds of the tournament. In this year's tournament, 68 teams are divided into four regions and sorted into single-elimination categories that display which teams the winners will face next.  
  3. Bracketology - The name for the process in which an individual attempts to predict and fill in the NCAA basketball brackets.
  4. Computer Algorithm - A step-by-step process that a computer uses to calculate a solution to a problem, such as the prediction of the March Madness tournament winners.


Filed under