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March Madness....Three Games to Go

Sometimes ideas come to late....Nonetheless, this week's suggestions can be used this week or in your planning for next year. We are currently at the end of March Madness, when basketball games dominate the airways, tweets, and conversations. And, March Madness is an opportunity to discuss some mathematics.p> The following resources may be of interest:

  • Tim Chartier, Davidson College math professor, discusses the math behind the filling of the infamous bracket, noting there are "9,233,372,036,854,775,808 (which is said 9 quintillion) ways to fill out a 64-team bracket." He also discusses the use of linear equations and weighting techniques....for more, see his video 1 or video 2
  • In this video, Sheldon Jacobson, UI Computer Science professor, discusses his special Operations Research formula for determining the probability of success for a team based on their seeding..his formula also is discussed in a Science20.com article
  • An article in The Economist offers a nice mathematical perspective of what happened in the year (2012)...the year of bracket busters!
Many more on-line resources are available, even websites that help you mathematically improve your bracket picks. Search as desired...

If nothing else, March Madness encourages discussions of mathematics, especially probability and odds. But, the astronomical size of the numbers may defeat most participants. For example, consider these claims by Matt Severance:

  • There has never has been any official recorded perfect bracket
  • If every person in America all 300 million filled out a bracket out, the probability of someone winning is .00000000003253
  • If every person on the planet where to fill out 10 million brackets each, the odds are less than one percent that one would have a perfect bracket
  • If every person on Earth filled out one bracket per second, it would take 43 years to fill out every possible combination
  • One study showed that if you simply pick the higher seed to win every game, your odds of a perfect bracket are one in 35,360,000,000 going by past tournament history.
  • Using historical data, No. 1 seeds have an approximate 84 percent chance of making it to the Sweet 16
  • Though ESPN.com supposedly offers a $10,000 prize to anyone who picks every first-round game correctly, but note that there are 4,294,967,296 ways to do that