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Brandon Harris

Big Data + Analytics @ Discover Financial

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The latest iteration of the NCAA model, Deep Dribble 1.1, saw a number of changes for the 2016-2017 season. The most interesting change was the daily rankings function which was a unique challenge for me. I’d never built out a rankings system before and I think it worked pretty well for the first pass. Ken Massey picked up the rankings and included them in his weekly NCAA composite (Deep Dribble [DDB] all the way to the right, next to AP and USA Today) so watching my rankings compare to some of the giants in the field (Pomeroy, Sagarin, AP, ESPN) was a lot of fun. A special thank you to Dr. Massey for his patience while I worked out the kinks in the system.

The improvements to the prediction algorithm also dropped the season-long error metric (RMSE) by over a point and half from last year which was great to see. I’ve got some ideas I’m already thinking about for next year but for now, I’m pretty happy with where Deep Dribble is at.

That leads us to the 2017 NCAA Tournament! There’s a lot of promising teams this year, and rather than combine the rankings algo and the predictive algo into a single bracket I created two brackets based on their separate views of the competition. I’ve also submitted the prediction bracket to Kaggle this year which was an interesting exercise in translating score differentials to win probabilities. That’s usually a highly-competitive challenge so I’ll be curious to see how things shake out in the end.

In the process of generating these brackets I did come across some very close games, both from a score diferential prediction and a ratings perspective. These are a few I’ll be keeping an eye on as the algorithms definitely seem to think they could go either way very easily.

  • Round 1 - Purdue (4) vs Vermont (13)
  • Round 1 - Virginia (5) vs UNC Wilmington (12)
  • Round 1 - Minnesota (5) vs MTSU (12)
  • Round 2 - Arizona (2) vs St Mary’s (7)
  • Round 2 - Baylor (3) vs SMU (6)
  • Round 2 - Wichita St (10) vs Kentucky (2)
  • Round 2 - MTSU (12) vs Butler (4)
  • Sweet 16 - Louisville (2) vs Oregon (3)

Below are the brackets from both algorithms, feel free to review and use as you wish, though as usual I’d caution anyone against putting money on these picks. I make no guarantees and don’t look to me for reimbursements. :)

Best of luck to you all and I look forward to what lies ahead, both in the tournament and in seasons to come.

-Brandon

Prediction Algorithim Final Four - Villanova, Oregon, Gonzaga, Kentucky
Champion - Gonzaga

Rankings Algorithim Final Four - Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA
Champion - Gonzaga