Students develop bracket prediction software robot

A group of students are working with the Math Department to develop the NCAA Basketball Predictor Bot to predict the results of the March Madness tournament using statistics and sports analysis. The Math Department will also challenge all students to attempt to create a more accurate tournament bracket than the Bot in a school-wide Bracketology contest.

The student that predicts the most accurate bracket will win a $100 Amazon gift card. The second place finisher will win  a $50 gift card and both the third and fourth place finishers will win a $25 gift card each. A random draw will decide ties. A total of 20 additional $10 Amazon gift cards will be awarded randomly to members on the Bot team or other students whose predictions were more accurate than the Bot’s. Students can enter the competition using the ESPN National Collegiate Athletics Association bracketology website or join Team Bot by emailing math teacher and contest leader William Thill. The students were inspired by the 4th-Down-Bot that the New York Times created to make football predictions. Students on Team Bot could consider a variety of variables, including rate of scoring, percentage of three-point shots scored or late-game performance, Thill said. Some variables could accurately predict a team’s performance, while others could fail to do so.

“The great thing is that there are so many variables one could speculate might be good,” Thill said. “The question is which of these variables are most closely correlated with whether or not a team loses a playoff game. There’s a great statistician called George Box who used to say, ‘All models are wrong, but some are useful.’ It’s the same thing here.”

All students, even those without much knowledge of statistics or mathematical sports analysis, are encouraged to participate.

“It’s so complex, but at the same time it’s so approachable,” Thill said. “You don’t have to be the best mathematician on Earth to come up with something that will have some predictive power. And even if you don’t want to get into that, you can still participate in the contest and have bragging rights with your friends if you’re beating them.”

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