Now that the NCAA has selected and paired off teams within its annual basketball tournament, Americans across the country are trying to figure out which four teams will make it to the finals for a shot at the national championship. The tournament known as "March Madness" starts on Tuesday.
This year's NCAA basketball tournament, which is notoriously hard to predict, will take place at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. According to Eli Blumenthal of USA Today, Microsoft will attempt to make the prediction process easier though its search engine, Bing.
"What we're doing with our model is we're removing emotion for the user," Bryan Saftler, a senior product manager of Bing, said. "If we can help users make decisions more from a place of logic and help you build a smarter bracket, then all of a sudden your selections and choices are going to make a lot more sense and you're gonna end up seeing a lot more success."
Blumenthal reported that Bing will offer users 10 years of data from the NCAA, some of which include "information not previously available to the public." The search engine will offer its own predictions on which teams will find success in the tournament.
"More often than not, people make their picks based on the few teams they follow or have heard of, often leaving plenty of gaps in between for 'bracket busters,'" Blumenthal wrote. "Bing draws on stats to build what Microsoft says will be a smarter bracket."
According to Blumenthal, the stats Bing will rely on include the win/loss ratio, individual strengths and weaknesses and home vs. away. The website will also take a look at statistics related to prior tournament performance, invitational and conference tournament play.
"The search engine will also be evaluating the impact of proximity of the March Madness games to each team's home campus," Blumenthal wrote. "According to Bing's research, teams that travel less than 100 miles win 77 percent of the time, while teams that are traveling more than 500 miles only win 46.5 percent of their games."
Blumenthal reported that Microsoft's prediction model has a previously successful track record. He noted that Bing "accurately predicted this year's Super Bowl and 20 of the 24 Academy Award winners, including the winners in the top six categories."
"We don't expect to get them (all) right," Walter Sun, principal applied science manager at Bing, said. "What we want to do is learn what trends and patterns we have from past data on social and web and build a bracket that is better than most experts. If you want to beat your buddy, this is a good place to start."
As for predictions outside the use of complicated statistics, Chris Roling of Bleacher Report elaborated on which teams could be considered the favorites to make it far in the tournament. One of those teams included the University of Kentucky.
"Let's just get this out of the way from the jump: Nobody is going to beat Kentucky," Roling wrote. "John Calipari's team is a No. 1 seed no matter what."
Roling then turned his focus to the Wisconsin Badgers. He reported that the team came in fourth on ESPN's RPI rankings and is 8-2 against the RPI Top 50.
"The Badgers at one point were a lock to be in Kentucky's part of the bracket, but it will be even better if the two make it to a Final Four encounter," Roling wrote.
As for the team that could surprise the tournament, Roling argued that it would come from the Louisville Cardinals, led by Rick Pitino. Although the team has "a 2-6 record against the RPI Top 25 and a shaky 9-8 mark against the RPI Top 100," Roling thought the team was "capable" of pulling a few surprises.
"Louisville is not an attractive sleeper pick in comparison to others, but a team that lost to Kentucky by just eight points and took down a second-ranked Virginia squad is one to keep an eye on once the bracket goes final," Roling wrote.
According to Blumenthal, even Microsoft's researchers had their own picks for the NCAA basketball tournament.
"My answer is purely emotion and I haven't looked at the science yet but Gonzaga all the way," Saftler says. "I need to root for a home team."
According to Brad Tuttle of Time, the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament can be seen on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. Although subscriptions and logins are required for both options, viewers can stream the games either through Sling TV (by signing up for a free trial) or on the official NCAA March Madness Live website.