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Is bracket-busting technology the key to victory?

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:40 am, Fri May 16, 2014.

(BPT) - Each year technology has a greater impact on our lives and that may be most visible in the world of sports. Long-time sports fans have witnessed the advent of new protective equipment, slow motion playbacks and officials using instant replay to determine the correct call in major sporting events all across the country.

On the basketball court, new technology is being used to collect data from each game that helps improve both player performance and the fan experience. For example, the SportVU tracking system from STATS records every movement and action of a player during games, which can result in more than 600,000 data points per 40 minute game. Those records are streamed and stored using SAP HANA, a platform for data analytics, and the analysis is used to evaluate athletes based on their shooting, spacing on the court, speed, dribbling and more.

Throughout each game, data is collected by intelligent cameras, wearable sensors and microphones providing an enriched in-game experience for basketball fans across the country and allowing them to experience the sport as they never have before.

Data is also a major player in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Tournament games are popular with 7.7 million comments being made about each game across social media. A recent infographic from Intel shows an estimated 3 million employees will spend one to three hours watching games and checking scores instead of working, while sixty-one percent of those fans will catch the action with a laptop or desktop, and 39 percent will use a mobile device.

As fans log in to watch the tournament, one of the most entertaining parts of the event is filling out the 63-game bracket. Millions of fans across the country compete in office pools and against their friends to see who can predict the most games correctly. Bragging rights are always at stake but the real goal is always to complete a perfect bracket and be your office’s Cinderella story.

This is easier said than done. The odds of a complete perfect bracket are one in 18 quintillion, and statistics show that a person is 50 million times more likely to win the Mega Millions jackpot than they are to correctly pick the winner in each of the 63 games.

So how can data improve the probability of picking a perfect bracket?

To explore the idea and showcase the power of analytics, Intel is making its data technologies more affordable and accessible to businesses and fans alike and is working to develop new technology to improve predictions based on data. For the tournament, Intel is partnering with Kaggle – a platform for data science competitions – to host the March Machine Learning Mania competition. The competition is designed to use data and predictive analytics to more accurately predict the outcome of the tournament.

Contestants used predictive models – data collected from nearly two decades of previous tournament games - to predict the outcome of each of the games as well as the overall results. The team that finishes with the best result will earn a $15,000 case prize, furnished by Intel. Bracket entrees closed March 19 but you can still follow the action by visiting the March Machine Learning Mania competition site.

Can state-of-the-art data and analytics lead to a perfect bracket? Is there another Cinderella story in the works? Follow the March Machine Learning Mania competition to find out.

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