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Will Kentucky take the glory again this year?
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Microsoft is making it easy for casual fans to pick a better NCAA bracket

By Max Nisen

After a stellar run of predictions at the World Cup and a fairly good run during American football’s NFL season, Microsoft’s Bing prediction team rolled out an extremely helpful tool for the many people out there who want to enter the US’s national college basketball tournament (NCAA) bracket office pool, but have only seen a few of the 68 teams play.

In a normal bracket selection, college basketball fans must choose every team that they think will win for dozens of rounds of basketball. Bing saves a lot of that work, allowing a person to pick just a few games among teams they’re more familiar with, or put a favorite team in the narrowed down pool of Final Four teams, and have Bing autocomplete the bracket based on its detailed predictions for every game.

Get there by searching “March Madness Bracket Builder” on Bing’s homepage.

To be a bit more hands on, scrolling over any game will give the percentage likelihood of an upset, making it easier to make a more varied but still statistically supported bracket.

Behind these easy picks and predictions is a lot of data and analysis. Like it did with the NFL and World Cup, Bing has a model that combines past data with real-time updates on things like injuries to predict the outcome for a game between any two teams.

From a blog post by Dr. Jan Pedersen, the lead scientist for Bing’s R&D division:

Through a partnership with the NCAA, we gained access to over 10 seasons worth of historical outcomes, including entire data sets that were previously unavailable to the public. This includes offensive and defensive statistics, conference success in previous tournaments, the proximity of tournaments to each team’s home campus, the style of each team, their individual strengths and weaknesses, and many other factors which might result in them favoring certain match-ups over others.

The data analytics team added an analysis of web and social sentiment on top of that to get its predictions.

Like most other prognosticators, Bing’s algorithm has Kentucky winning the championship, giving the team an 18% chance of winning the tournament. Its predicted Final Four set is Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, and Duke. The expected final is Kentucky and Duke, and Bing gives the Wildcats a 55% chance of winning that game.