March Madness: High-Powered Analytics and the Data-Fueled NCAA Brackets

Mar 17, 2014 in Mobile

Feeling the college basketball buzz? March Madness—the NCAA Division I college basketball tournament—begins this week. Can Louisville defend its title? Or will a top seed like Florida or Arizona go all the way? Whatever the final outcome, we are in for an exhilarating month of hoops. As you join everyone from your next-door neighbor to President Obama and fill out your tournament brackets, let us take a look at the data collection stories surrounding the Big Dance.

When it comes to filling out those brackets, contenders certainly have plenty of data to work with, from player statistics to social media sources and beyond. And one site where the power of big data is being unleashed to help users build a better bracket is through a partnership between data-prediction platform Kaggle and chip-maker Intel. Their March Machine Learning Mania data science competition allows participants to use forecasting models to “predict winning percentages for the likelihood of each possible matchup” in addition to the overall 2014 outcomes.

Indeed, data analytics has enjoyed an increasing role in the sports industry in recent years. Since 2007, MIT’s Sloan School of Management has hosted a Sports Analytics Conference. The 2014 installment, held from February 28 to March 1, included such mobile data collection-centered sessions as “Wearable Tech Revolutionizing Sports Analytics,” and applied its focus to data-driven team management in “Analytics in Sports Business: Putting the Money in Moneyball.” And March Madness is certainly no stranger to the conference; in 2012, it featured the talk “Using Cumulative Win Probabilities to Predict NCAA Basketball Performance.”

Of course, folks don’t just pore over data and fill out brackets only to turn away from the action on the court. After all, the NCAA tournament is among the highest-rated sports broadcasts and is a true marketing bonanza, as this MBA@UNC infographic shows. According to Nielsen, last year’s tournament had 10.7 million viewers on average, making it the most-watched March Madness since 1994. It was also a record-setting year across online and mobile platforms, with Turner Sports reporting that “NCAA March Madness Live garnered 49 million live video streams, up 168 percent vs. 2012, and more than 14 million hours of live video consumed—both all-time records.”

NCAA March Madness Live is the official NCAA mobile application, and that is where users have full access to game schedules, bracket forms, a range of game-time alerts and (for a fee) live game streams. Here at GoSpotCheck we are excited to follow the tournament action—as well as the ever-growing movement in sports at large that finds our passion front and center: the collection, organization and application of data to enable optimal analysis, decisions and insights.