Want to better understand bracketology? So do we.
Some of that madness will come from trying to figure out if Western Kentucky will really make the Sweet Sixteen with a Ty Rogers-like shot. More madness will be from a player, who most of America has never heard of, earning his one shining moment and eternal internet fame.
A lot of madness, though, comes down to bracketology. And the University of Illinois, a school that Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger formerly coached at, is here to help. The school recently had physical sciences editor Liz Ahlberg interview U of I’s computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson.
Jacobson, along with Illini students, created a website about the mathematics behind bracketology called BracketOdds that will also help fans fill out their brackets. Below is a Q&A about the bracketology, odds and — well — the madness.
HAPPY BRACKET FILLING!
What is “bracketology”?
Bracketology has two phases. Phase I is the process of determining which teams will be selected to participate in March Madness. Phase II is determining which teams will win in each round and who will eventually be crowned national champion.
What are the odds of a person filling out a perfect bracket?
If you include the four “First Four” games, there are 67 games to be played. Assuming that each game is a tossup, the odds against this occurring are about 146 quintillion to one (that’s 146 followed by 18 zeros). If you only consider the main bracket, which covers 63 games, the odds drop to about 9 quintillion to one. However, not all games are a tossup, so the odds are significantly less, but still quite large.
In your research, what factors have you found that could be indicative of a team’s success in the tournament?
In the early rounds, having a high seed (seeds No. 1, 2 or 3) significantly increases your chance of surviving until the Sweet Sixteen. If a team has a double-digit seed (10 or more), seeds that avoid No. 1 the longest tend to survive longer. That means a No. 11 seeds can advance to the Sweet Sixteen by defeating a No. 6 and (potentially) a No. 3 seed, while a No. 10 seed can advance to the Sweet Sixteen by defeating a No. 7 and (potentially) a No. 2 seed. Once teams move beyond the Sweet Sixteen, the seeds become less predictive.
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