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March Bracket-lytics Challenge: End of Round 4

After two wild weeks of the 2018 men’s college basketball tournament, Michigan, Loyola-Chicago, Villanova, and Kansas finally advanced to the Final Four and will be facing off in San Antonio next weekend. With lower-seeded teams driving dominant performance, for the first time in history, not even one of the region’s top four teams advanced to the Sweet 16.

In the second week of Merkle’s Bracket-lytics Competition, only one student team from last week’s top four teams remains in the top four. “Buoyes Team 5” is currently in first place with 78 points, with three of the correct Final Four teams and almost perfect East and Midwest brackets. The major unprecedented upsets by this year’s Cinderella team, Loyola-Chicago, were unfortunately under everyone’s radar, as the Ramblers did not appear in any Final Four predictions from our student teams at all.

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One of the best-performing brackets by the end of round four came from “Big Ballers” of John’s Hopkins University. The team trained a series of random forest classifiers on various combinations of seven significant variables (turnovers per possession, personal fouls per possession, offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, etc.), then the team filled out the bracket by using the modeled probabilities of either team winning the matchup. As a result, it was one of the few teams that picked Michigan over Gonzaga or UNC in the West Regional, which turned out to be a success. Another strong team, “William and Mary MSBA,” was using a similar strategy with a logistic regression model and a feature selection approach based on the coefficients and P-values.

With the Ramblers becoming the fourth No.11 seed to reach the Final Four tournament’s modern era and the dream matchup between two No.1 seeds, any one of the four may win it all. Also, it could be any team’s game with the Bracket-lytics Challenge – 17 student teams still have the chance to win 10 points from their champion picks (Villanova or Michigan). So, while the top seeds may have the odds in their favor, March is mad for a reason, and these are our brackets to add to the insanity with an untimely loss.

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