Krystal Temple

Big Data and Basketball: Machine Learning Mania

Kaggle_web_banner_FINALAlthough football season has now sadly drawn to a close, there’s a lot of upcoming sports action to get excited about. But as March approaches, there’s really only one event that brings both casual and diehard sports fans together for a must-watch frenzy. I’m talking about none other than the upcoming college men’s basketball tournament, one of the most anticipated and anticipated and buzzworthy events in the sports world.

Aside from the fast-paced action, buzzer beaters, shocking upsets and Cinderella stories that we always expect, the tournament also brings out the Nate Silver in everyone as they vie to win fame and glory by filling in the perfect bracket. 

Unfortunately for those looking to conquer the Warren Buffet challenge, the odds of creating a flawless entry are astronomical – 1 in 18 quintillion. But big data analytics can give players the insight they need to make more accurate predictions, and this year, Intel has partnered with Kaggle and its vast network of data scientists to create the March Machine Learning Mania competition. Demonstrating the power of analytics for everyone from fans to sports organizations, this competition will give data scientists, mathematicians and others the chance to show off their data smarts while they compete to bring home the big prize.

A number of factors usually come into play when predicting the winners: gut instinct, being a loyal alumnus, season rankings, tournament seeds, player statistics, teams on hot streaks, pundits and the proximity of the region where a team is placed in the tournament to the actual campus. The bracket is in essence a living, breathing data set which can be unlocked through technology to gain unmatched insight, in turn allowing for more accurate predictions.

A growing number of sites and applications are crunching data to help users make take advantage of data analytics. For example, BracketOdds, created by a computer science professor at University of Illinois, lets users know the probability of a combination of seeds advancing in the tournament.

But it’s also about putting the power of data directly in the hands of those who depend on it. Making big data analytics technology more affordable, available and easier to use will better unlock game intelligence, providing sports organizations with the competitive advantage they need, as well as enriching the sports experience – from technologically advanced stadiums to better fantasy data – for fans.

This spring, join us in cheering on our favorite teams and put your money where your data is – right on the bracket – to make the college men’s basketball tournament an even more exciting experience. From fantasy football to college basketball and beyond, data is bringing an unprecedented level of insight to the game, which translates to better players, better games, and a richer (and way more fun) fan experience.

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