Tag Archives: bracket

Math bracket 2016

It’s that time again — March Math Madness, where we fill out an NCAA men’s tournament bracket with the best math department winning every game.  As always, this bracket was filled out by a highly trained team consisting of myself and a group of procrastinating grad students, making decisions by voice vote, and if you disapprove of one of our choices, I’m sure it’s somebody else’s fault.  This is Berkeley’s first championship after falling to Harvard in 2012; meanwhile, Michigan sees its second final in three years but falls short again…

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 16 Mar 10.51.PM

Update: In the 34th percentile at ESPN after one day of play — thanks, Yale!

Update:  Down to the 5th percentile and only Duke and UVa are left out of my final 8 picks.  Not gonna be the math bracket’s finest year.

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Should we fire people who pick the wrong Final Four?

A thought experiment touched off by Cathy’s latest post on value-added modeling.

Suppose I’m in charge of a big financial firm and I made every trader who worked for me fill out an NCAA tournament bracket.  Then, every year, I fired the people whose brackets ended up in the lowest quintile.

This makes sense, right?  Successful prediction of college basketball games involves a lot of the same skills you want traders to have:  an ability to aggregate information about uncertain outcomes, fluency in quantitative reasoning, a certain degree of strategic thinking (what choices do you make if your objective is to minimize the probability that your bracket is in the bottom 20%?  What if your fellow traders are also following the same strategy…?)  You might even do a study that finds that firms whose traders did better at bracket prediction actually ended up with better returns 5 years later.  Even if the effect is small, that might add up to a lot of money.  Yes, the measure isn’t perfect, but why wouldn’t I want to fire the people who, on average, are likely to make less money for my firm?

And yet we wouldn’t do this, right?  Just because we think it would be obnoxious to fire people based on a measure predominantly not under their control.  At least we think this when it comes to high-paid financial professionals.  Somehow, when it comes to schoolteachers, we think about it differently.

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Math Bracket 2015

March Math Madness is here!  Presenting the 2015 math bracket, as usual prepared by our crack team of handicappers here at the UW math department.  As always, remember that the math bracket is for entertainment purposes only and you should not take offense if the group rated your department lower than the plainly inferior department that knocked you out.  Under no circumstances should you use the math bracket to decide where to go to grad school.

Math Bracket 2015-page-0Lots of tough choices this year!

 

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Math bracket 2013

And here it is, the annual NCAA bracket produced by awarding each game to the school with the better math department.  Of course, these judgments are for entertainment only, and were produced by a group, so if you find any of the picks absurdly wrong, those were the ones I didn’t make.

Go Crimson!

MathBracket 2013

Update: A great first day of play for the math bracket — Harvard and Berkeley advance over higher-seeded opponents and we’re in the 55th percentile of the ESPN Challenge.

Update: Second day less good as UCLA is the first of our final four to get eliminated, and we drop into the low 30s.

Update: Bracket in disarray, with only Duke remaining from the math final four. On the bright side, the math faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University includes Eric Insko, a student of my collaborator Julianna Tymoczko, and an undergrad alum of UW-Madison. So that explains nicely why they’re doing so well.

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Earth-M bracketology

What if every game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament were won by the school with the better math department?  A group of us put together the alternate-universe bracket above to find out.  Note that the rules of the game forbade us from looking up anything on the Internet, so there are doubtless some matchups where our judgments are questionable or outright wrong.  If there’s a choice that really offends you, please be assured that it was the responsibility of McReynolds.

I couldn’t figure out how to make the image look nice:  if you can’t read the above, here’s a cleaner version.

Update: After one day of play, our bracket is at the 2.9th percentile of the 4 million entrants to ESPN’s bracket contest.  The plan is to make back lots of points when Cal beats Duke.

Update: Back up to 20.6% — thanks, Cornell!

Update: Northern Iowa knocks out Kansas, who we tossed in the first round, and Washington cruises past #3 seed New Mexico to make the Sweet Sixteen, just as we predicted; and we stand at 46.2%.

Update: Guh.  Three of my final four are out.  Back to 3.9%.  It’s all up to you now, Ohio State.

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