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Lindner Business Analytics Professor and Alum Bring March Madness Fever to the Classroom

New Bracketology course uses math to improve odds of selecting NCAA upsets and wins.

Date: 3/7/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Judy Ashton
Phone: (513) 556-7162

UC ingot   For sports enthusiasts who need a little more help picking a winner in the NCAA basketball tournament, other than by favorite mascots and stylish uniforms, there’s a new class for that.

“That’s where math comes in,” professor Mike Magazine, an Ohio Eminent Scholar of Business Analytics, says of the new Bracketology course offered through the Carl H. Lindner College of Business this semester.

Without coincidence, the course is taught Feb. 16, March 9 and April 13 to align with March Madness, the single-elimination college basketball tournament that unfolds each spring among men’s Division I basketball teams.

The course is a hit among sports fans — and those eager to understand the frenzy when the country becomes obsessed in March over filling out a tournament bracket in hopes of winning the office pool.

Bracketology shows students how to use math to improve their chance of selecting upsets, sure-fire winners and which teams will make it to the Final Four, Magazine says.

United by a love of sports and math, Magazine has teamed with alum Paul Bessire, BBA ’04, MS-QA ’05, to co-teach a course steeped in probability, simulation and judgment. Bessire owns, advanced forecasting software that calculates sports outcomes. Together they impart their wisdom in a course packed full of history, methodology and, of course, NCAA bracket selection.

Held for three eight-hour Saturday classes, undergraduate and graduate students, both male and female, are assigned to teams that make up an NCAA committee. Through probability and regression analysis, teams then select who plays and who wins. A bit of history comes into play, Magazine says, as a No. 16 seed has never upset a No. 1, but plenty of No. 6 seeds have defeated a No. 3.  Teams are then asked to defend their selections to classmates.

The overall lesson, Magazine says, is that outcomes are uncertain. “Sometimes you make the right choice, but it doesn’t work as expected and your team loses or the play doesn’t work.”

Magazine also teaches a fall semester Sports by the Numbers class that uses math for captivating insight into sports decision-making in football and baseball.