Harvard Students Using Stats to Predict NCAA Upsets

While skimming my facebook feed, a ‘friend’ from my fantasy football world posted a link to a project Harvard student Andrew Ezekowitz is working on — creating a model to predict NCAA basketball upsets during March Madness. What is even more interesting is that Harvard students have created and run a group called the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective (HSAC)– basically a student run group interested quantitative analysis of sports strategy and management.

This time last year, I attempted to create a logistic model that would predict those first round NCAA Tournaments that everyone loves so much. The model was not bad: it correctly identified Murray State over Vanderbilt as a good choice and suggested St. Mary’s run to the Sweet 16, but this year, I thought I could make some significant improvements.

So I started from scratch this year, culling data from every first round game from the 2004 through 2010 Tournaments. I decided to focus on games with at least a 5-seedline differential. 3 seeds against 14 seeds through 6 seeds against 11 seeds were the “upsets” I examined. Sooner rather than later (perhaps even this year), another 15 will beat a 2 and a 16 seed will finally beat a 1 seed, but for this analysis, I chose to focus on upsets I had data on. This left me with 224 teams and 112 games in my dataset.

While I have never attended Harvard, I know a good number of Harvard folks (friends, peers in grad school, professors, coworkers, professors, even some bosses) and if nothing else — they are DOERS. While statistical analysis of sports may not float everyone’s boat, it highlights the serious and strategic approach that folks in and around Harvard take to their activities. Its as much attitude as anything else.

BTW, I do not see anything on the HSAC site that mentions entrepreneurship, but I have to believe that these kids and their advisers are well aware of the financial implications of their research.

via Predicting First Round NCAA Tournament Upsets: New and Improved | Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective.

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