AI and computer simulations offer their March Madness 2017 picks
March Madness begins this week, and millions of people around the country (and the world) are filling out their brackets. And not just people. Several computer simulations and a handful of AI have put forward their March Madness 2017 picks as well.
The odds of picking a perfect NCAA bracket are one in 9.2 quintillion. They are so large that Warren Buffett feels confident enough that he is offering a reward for anyone that can correctly pick every game. If anyone has a perfect bracket, Buffett will give them $1 million a year. For life. That probably won’t extend to computer simulations, but that may not be an issue, given that they can’t seem to agree on who to pick either.
The website oddshark.com used its generically named “Super Computer,” to make its picks, and some of them are just plain wacky. In this simulation, the Final Four are Gonzaga, North Carolina, Louisville, and Villanova. It then has Gonzaga beating Louisville to win it all.
There’s nothing too wild in that, and there are probably a lot of brackets with similar predictions. Where it gets a little more bizarre is in the first round, where the simulation has Kansas losing in the first round to Number 16 seed North Carolina Central. Putting aside the fact that NC Central still has to win the play-in round just to play Kansas, no 16-seed has ever beaten a number one seed. (And as a University of Kansas alumnus, this computer is obviously broken and should probably be destroyed with a hammer.)
There are a few other wild picks, but beyond the 16 beating a one they are well within the realm of possibility. For instance, the simulation has 7-seed Saint Mary’s beating Arizona in the second round, 13-seed Vermont beating Purdue and Iowa State to make it to the Sweet 16, and 12-seed Middle Tennessee joining them.
Another program, Bet Labs, ran the simulation 10,000 times. Rather than filling out an actual bracket, it just gave odds on how far each of the 68 teams might make it.
Bet Labs gives Gonzaga the best odds of winning at 20.6-percent. North Carolina has the second best odds at 10.5-percent, Villanova third (9.4-percent), Kentucky fourth (6-percent), and Louisville fifth at 5.5-percent. Like the previous program, Bet Labs was down on Kansas – it has it as the first number one seed to go out, giving the Jayhawks just a 22.3-percent chance of making it to the Final Four, the lowest odds of any number one seed. So it’s obviously broken too.
For the record, that simulation gives New Orleans, Mount Saint Mary’s, UC Davis, Texas Southern, and South Dakota State 0-percent chance of making it to the Sweet 16.
Microsoft and Bing also got in on the action and used “intelligent machine-learning technology to analyze social and search signals” to make some picks. The model used historical data along with team statistics to predict the results. Its Final Four includes Villanova, Arizona, Louisville, and Kentucky. In the championship game, Bing has Villanova beating Kentucky to repeat as national champions.
Bing also has all four 12-seeds pulling off upsets. It’s a little kinder to Kansas, having them reach the Elite Eight before falling to Louisville. The simulation also has 10-seed Wichita State beating 7-seed Dayton, but that isn’t much of a surprise given that some are calling the Shockers the best 10-seed of all time. Beyond that, with those exceptions, Bing chose the higher seed in every case up to the Elite Eight. It’s not exactly bold.
And finally, while not exactly a computer simulation in the same vein, the statistical blog FiveThirtyEight has weighed in. It gave odds of winning to each team, with Villanova on top with 15-percent. Gonzaga had the second best odds with 14-percent, Kansas was third with 10-percent, and Kentucky fourth with 8-percent. Duke and North Carolina both have a 7-percent chance. It has Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, and Kentucky as its Final Four.
So basically, there is no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to March Madness 2017 picks. You might as well pick based on your favorite mascots. It might be just as effective. The play-in games begin tonight, with the bulk of tournament kicking off on Thursday and Friday.