2010 NCAA March Madness: Adventures in "Bracketcasting"

Sam KlineCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2010

George Mason, where are you?

In my efforts to maximize technology to get an edge on probable outcomes of the current NCAA conference tournaments, I saw an online ad for an application called “Bracketcaster” on Accuscore.com .

I contacted the powers that be at Accuscore to tell them I was curious about their product, and wanted to write a piece on their site and the Bracketcaster. Accuscore was quite accommodating, and provided me with access to its myriad of handicapping tools for a variety of sports, including college basketball's Bracketcaster. 

For those completely unfamiliar with Accuscore, it calls itself “the sports industry’s premiere pre-game resource for the serious sports fans and is dedicated to forecasting sports through entertaining programming that analyzes and accurately forecasts everything that could happen for every game on every day.   Powered by a patent pending simulation engine, AccuScore plays each game play-by-play 10,000 times providing sports fans with unprecedented insight into each match-up.”

So, I logged on and tinkered with Bracketcaster. The simulation basically consists of my clicking on matchups that their system has already predetermined in the familiar tournament bracket format, based on the play of each college program thus far. Here’s Accuscore’s description of Bracketcaster:

“Each week we will use ESPN’s Bracketology projection to fill out a preliminary bracket. We simulate every possible pairing to determine the exact probability each team has of beating every other team in the tournament. Each time you simulate the tournament you will get a slightly or very different picture of what might happen. For example, if Syracuse has a 96% chance of winning their first round match-up a vast majority of simulations will have Syracuse advancing, but once every 25 times or so you will see a major simulated upset. If you want to see the results of 50,000 tournament simulations click on the ROUND-BY-ROUND link under the TOOLS menu to see your favorite team’s chances of advancing in each round. If you interested in a particular potential match-up you can use the HEAD-TO-HEAD tool and find the result for any possible tournament match-up.”

Even though the conference tournaments have not yet concluded and Selection Sunday is still a few days away, Accuscore somehow knows who Duke will play in the first round, and whether a mid-major underdog like Sam Houston State will earn a trip to the Big Dance. 

Suspending all disbelief, I decided to just roll with their predictions. Here’s what my first simulation spit out:

Final Four: 

Duke (1)

Maryland (5)

Cal (7)

And, of course, the NBA basketball factory...

Oakland-Michigan (14)

Championship Game : Maryland vs. Cal

Champs : Maryland Terrapins

Some other highlights from simulated Big Dance:

  • Syracuse (1) chokes in first round to Quinnipiac.
  • Morgan State (15) beats Ohio St (2) in first round.
  • Oakland-Michigan (14) beats Texas (3) in first round.
  • Morgan State (15) advances to Sweet 16, only to lose to Oakland-Michigan (14).
  • Cal beats Georgetown to advance to Elite Eight—chalk one up for the Pac-10!

Naturally, I shook my head at the possibility of a mass-Orange suicide should Syracuse lose to Quinnipiac in the first round. After reaching out to my contact at Accuscore about the rampant upsets that Bracketcaster had predicted, I was told the following:

“We added a random element that does advance lower seeds in some instances because we wanted the users to see all the potential match-ups that could exist. The tournament has always been about upsets, so we tried to capture that with the Bracketcaster.”

Okay, that’s great for Quinnipiac and Oakland-Michigan fans, but what about people who are looking for an edge when filling out their own bracket?

“They should continue to use the Bracketcaster, but manually advance the teams they think will win to simulate what they feel will be more realistic match-ups in the later rounds.  Additionally, on Monday we are publishing a cheat sheet that provides all 65-team’s round-by-round probability, who is on upset watch, which schools that could turn into “Cinderella”, the highest probability bracket, the AccuScore expert  bracket and statistical profile’s on each team that identifies their strengths and weaknesses.”

Um, okay, so just dismiss the ridiculous upsets and manually advance the Syracuses and Kentuckys against No. 15 and 16 seeds? Naturally, I was a tad skeptical about the Bracketcaster technology after this explanation, but decided to give the tournament simulator another shot. Take 2:

Final Four:

Pittsburgh (3)

Michigan State (3)

Florida State (9)

And of course, what would a NCAA Tournament be without a Final Four visit from 14th-seeded Wofford?

Wait, it gets better…


Championship Game:

Pittsburgh vs. Wofford


Bracketcaster’s 2010 National Champions:

Your Terriers of Wofford College!

Upsets are what make the Big Dance exciting, as George Mason University proved back in 2006. Just because Bracketcaster is bold enough to predict a few shocking outcomes, does it mean we should simply dismiss their predictions because it looks funny on paper?

Then again, I’m all for having fun with bold predictions. But putting my money where Bracketcaster’s mouth is? Um, maybe Monopoly money, unless Accuscore proves me wrong.

Wofford plus the points…