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Students examine analytics behind tournament brackets

BLACKSBURG, Virg. (NEXSTAR) — It’s that time of year-time for the sweat, the upsets, and the busted brackets.

What are the odds of selecting a perfect bracket? Not good.

“There’s a ton of buzzer beaters that happen in the tournament. So even when you can say Oh, I’ve done all the homework and this is the better team doesn’t always win,” says Kevin Berry, a University of Maryland fan.

That’s why which team will win is often difficult to predict. 

“I have Duke winning in two of them, and Virginia Tech going all the way. In the most important bracket, of course,” says Byron Hannon, a sales rep with Devil’s Backbone. The brewery is putting its own twist on the hoops tournament by inviting locals to take part in a beer bracket at eatery 202 Social House. 

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech sports media students are crunching the numbers and using the data to come up with their own selections. 

“It’s not just a matter of what team they like, and who has the best players. It’s can we mathematically predict winners,” says Bill Roth, professor at Virginia Tech. 

The students use advance analytics to determine which team they think will advance. 

“Looking at every little detail, like even the tiniest little details. Record on neutral courts versus home courts and away courts. It’s the really tiny details that not many people think about,” says Patrick Cunningham, Virginia Tech sophomore. 

Each student compiled their own bracket and the class did one as a whole. Their mathematical prediction for the last team standing? Duke.

“If you look at the numbers, they’ve put up this season when they’re healthy, it’s one of the most impressive statistical teams ever. And if you watch them play, they’re one of the most exciting teams too,” says Roth.

This is the third year the Virginia Tech sports media class has done the analytical experiment.