March 27, 2014

March Madness Math


Scott: March Madness is in full swing and people all over the country are watching the top college basketball teams go head-to-head in the NCAA tournament. But as Keith Kocinski show us, some students are doing more than picking their favorite team or going with their gut when it comes to picking who will come out on top.

Student: The first day we had this she said, ‘You’re going to rank all 351 teams in Division I basketball.’ And that’s the only thing she said.

Keith: That was the assignment for the students in Linda Gooding’s algebra class at Roanoke Valley Governor’s School in Virginia.

Linda Gooding: I’m not a big basketball fan, but teaching seniors in the spring, you have to have something that’s exciting, that’s also educational to keep them motivated, and this seems to work.

Keith: These students are pairing up in their own teams and using math to create a model that they hope will predict the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Gooding: It’s really applying math in a fun way for something that they all are interested in – the March Madness.

Keith: A mathematic model is a way to apply math concepts to the real world. These students studied three different models that were created at Davidson, Georgia Tech and Princeton Universities and then decided how to create their own model.

Gooding: They kind of expanded their math knowledge based on need to create their model rather than just learn something and not seeing how it’s applied yet.

Keith: And if you are into March Madness, you probably already have your bracket filled out with your winner chosen.

So here is how the tournament works. You start off with 64 teams matched up in 32 games. And when a team loses, that means they are eliminated until there is only one team remaining. Right now, we are at the Sweet Sixteen, and tonight there are eight teams playing for a position in the Elite Eight. But predicting the winner of the NCAA championship isn’t easy.

Professor Tim Chartier: It is very hard. Usually, there are no perfect brackets, even after the second round.

Professor Chartier: It’s really the madness. It’s the randomness of sport. It’s part of why we watch the game. We watch the game because you do not know who will win.

Keith: That is why billionaire businessman Warren Buffett has his own contest. If you pick the NCAA winner, Buffett will give you $1 billion. But no one is getting it this year. Thanks to a bunch of upsets, it took just 25 games for everyone who entered to be eliminated. But the top 20 scores will get $100,000 each.

For students at Roanoke, they aren’t looking for money, but they are aiming for a good grade and, of course, bragging rights.

Student: I don’t have to say anything because our model is obviously going to win.

Student: If my math model beats their brain, then, I mean, that’s something I’m going to brag about.

Keith: I guess we will know the outcome in the next couple weeks.

Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.

Scott: The championship game is scheduled for April 6th, and I have got Michigan State taking it all. But what about you? Head to Instagram and share with us your picks for the Final Four.


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