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Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports

An official journal of the American Statistical Association

Editor-in-Chief: Mark Glickman PhD

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A new approach to bracket prediction in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament based on a dual-proportion likelihood

Ajay Andrew Gupta
  • Corresponding author
  • Statistics, The Florida State University, 117 N. Woodward Ave. P.O. Box 3064330, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-10-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jqas-2014-0047


The widespread proliferation of and interest in bracket pools that accompany the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament have created a need to produce a set of predicted winners for each tournament game by people without expert knowledge of college basketball. Previous research has addressed bracket prediction to some degree, but not nearly on the level of the popular interest in the topic. This paper reviews relevant previous research, and then introduces a rating system for teams using game data from that season prior to the tournament. The ratings from this system are used within a novel, four-predictor probability model to produce sets of bracket predictions for each tournament from 2009 to 2014. This dual-proportion probability model is built around the constraint of two teams with a combined 100% probability of winning a given game. This paper also performs Monte Carlo simulation to investigate whether modifications are necessary from an expected value-based prediction system such as the one introduced in the paper, in order to have the maximum bracket score within a defined group. The findings are that selecting one high-probability “upset” team for one to three late rounds games is likely to outperform other strategies, including one with no modifications to the expected value, as long as the upset choice overlaps a large minority of competing brackets while leaving the bracket some distinguishing characteristics in late rounds.

Keywords: brackets; college basketball; maximum likelihood; statistics


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About the article

Corresponding author: Ajay Andrew Gupta, Statistics, The Florida State University, 117 N. Woodward Ave. P.O. Box 3064330, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-10-11

Published in Print: 2015-03-01

Citation Information: Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, ISSN (Online) 1559-0410, ISSN (Print) 2194-6388, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jqas-2014-0047. Export Citation

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