Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

By Chris Nay, IBM Research Communications

ASPcollege_hoopsEvery year, top U.S. men’s college basketball teams enter a month-long tournament for a chance to be crowned champion. And it always stirs up fan and pundit predictions to pick potential winners of all 63 games.

To really give the pot a stir this year, Berkshire Hathaway, Quicken Loans and Yahoo Sports teamed up to create the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Choose every match up correctly and win $1B.

While the odds of picking a perfect bracket in the challenge were steep, it didn’t put off millions of basketball fans everywhere from filling out brackets. However, it only took 48 hours, 25 games (and several upsets) for every bracket to be eliminated. (See an infographic that breaks down the bracket data.)

What the data told us

IBM Research worked with Berkshire Hathaway, who provided the bilion dollar prize, and Quicken Loans, who provided the data, to set up a private SoftLayer cloud to protect and ensure the integrity of the bracket’s data. But as data and analytics geeks, the team couldn’t help wonder about what insights they could glean from people’s picks. Was there was any logic to the madness?

As you can see in the infographic, participants who hunted for Cinderella didn’t necessarily have any more success than those who went chalk. As we head toward the last three games this weekend, the data predicts a Florida vs. Wisconsin final … with a win for Florida!

Predictions by Percentage

(download high resolution version)

IBM Research Team: Suresh Chari, Ken Goldman, Ted Habeck, Charanjit Jutla, Hugo Krawczyk, Ian Molloy, Elaine Palmer, Tal Rabin, Josyula Rao, Wilfried Teiken and Chandra Venkataraman

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April 11, 2014
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This is interesting article. My 4 year old daughter picked 3 out of 4 final teams, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Florida. She won the the house tournament. Next year, I need to talk to my daughter about 2015 picks.

Posted by: Rafal Konik
April 11, 2014
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I ended up with 48 out of 65 games picked correctly. At one point, I was ranked #89 in the Billion Dollar bracket. Unfortunately, I picked so many games correctly early on, that I got screwed deeper in with fewer correct picks which were worth more points. Had the contest simply been correct number of picks, well who knows, I might be $100k richer today. :)

Interesting data in this article. I too had a Florida/Wisconsin final picked, with Wisconsin taking it all. You can imagine how pumped I was when Bucky made it into the final four!

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April 10, 2014
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this is Great. This is the core of how Analytics can be used, benefit the user and get the user to think. Broadcast this and we should help to get the message of High Value Big Data to the world !

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April 10, 2014
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More than I could have dreamt of! :)

Posted by: Eric FERON
April 10, 2014
3:27 am

I participated in this but got eliminated after consecutive upsets. It was fun though.

Posted by: Ludo
April 9, 2014
2:31 pm

To build on comments from Jadi and Philip I would love to see Watson “help” users pick the perfect bracket. After all Watson does not make decisions, it helps people make decisions. Have an interface that people can use to alter the results based on criteria they consider most important. This could help illustrate the convergence of Watson/Analytics/Mobile/Social. What a marketing impact!

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April 9, 2014
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Next year, I plan to use a coin toss to select my bracket entries. I think it may be just as effective as analyzing the stats.

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It should be interesting to know what kind of data should have been analyzed to generate the bracket prediction.

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Posted by: Davide
April 8, 2014
4:58 pm

I’d like to see Watson try to pick a perfect bracket next year. That’s a project I’d LOVE to work on.

Posted by: Jadi Mwendo
April 7, 2014
2:08 pm

Warren Buffet indicates he’d like to sponsor the competition again next year. With 1 year to prepare, how about using Watson to predict to provide the top 100K most likely brackets out of the quintillion possible combinations. Who will win the NCAA Tournament is a Big Data question with a non-trivial splash of intangibles. Spend a year preparing to download the relevant data points for the 64 entries: Wins, Losses, strength of schedule, injuries, coaching, individual and team statistics, Home/Away performance, conference and non-conference, winning streaks, trends, venue altitude, etc Its all data and the question is whether Watson can convert the data to information! Imagine the Marketing impact of having a bracket prediction that lasted to the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 or the Final 4 or…..

Posted by: Philip Poetzinger
April 7, 2014
1:55 pm

Re: Buzz words.

Not really. When you consider how many people signed up and how many teams per person and all the possibilities that they “could have” chosen.

The info graphic is only 0.5% of all that was analyzed. This was only for us… the rest of what was analyzed is for the businesses.

Posted by: Frank
April 7, 2014
1:14 pm

This is “Big” data? Someone with access to the DB and basic query skills could produce the same analysis..

Posted by: Buzz Words
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