Are Statistical Models More Accurate than Guessing?
You may have heard the name Nate Silver during the recent presidential election. The New York Times' polling blogger correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. His secret? Statistics.
Silver first caught the public's attention with the creation of a computer system used for evaluating baseball player's stats, which outperformed the analysis of many experts. He then went on to become a full-time online poker player, before turning to politics. During the 2008 presidential election, Silver correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 state using statistical modeling. Due to the accuracy of his forecasts, his blog, FiveThirtyEight, has become a source for data-driven analysis of current topics (sports, politics, and culture).
Since predictive modeling seemed to work well in other arenas- why not create one for March Madness? In 2011 Silver created a NCAA Men's Basketball Forecasting model that used a few simple tenets to determine success- past performance, current performance, coupled with more advanced calculations. For basketball fans (and geeks like us) his model is a thing of wonder. You can access the simple and advanced explanation here. He threw out some of the minutiae in the model because he found that it didn't make a difference (e.g. coach's experience, free throw shooting). He seems to account for many of the "what ifs", but still encourages aficionados to do what a model may not be able to do- think strategically- how a player may match up against one another on a particular day in a particular game.
Here at SAASI, we decided to put Nate Silver's mathematical model to the test! And since it's March Madness, what better way to investigate its accuracy than by comparing brackets?Earlier this week four of our staff members filled out their brackets. From picking favorite mascots and colors to guessing at random, each used a different approach to predict which teams would advance in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Throughout the rest of the month we'll be comparing their brackets to Silvers' (which was published on his blog).
How they chose...
- Chris: Chose Indiana because that is where Larry Bird is from and he was a great Boston Celtic.
- Davis: Follows basketball and knows what he is doing.
- Emily: Colors and mascots.
- Zoraya: Random picks.
Final rankings showed that Nate Silver's bracket consistently remained in the first or second place throughout the whole tournament, with the gap between his bracket and our brackets widening as the tournament progressed.
1st place: Nate Silver
2nd place: Davis Brigman
3rd place: Emily Johnson
4th place: Chris Knickerbocker
5th place: Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla
Currently, rankings remain unchanged. There are a few more games left to play, but Nate Silver is emerging as the clear victor in this bracket contest.
After the Regional Semi-finals, Nate Silver is first place! Emily Johnson and David Brigman are tied for second place. Chris Knickerbocker is third place. Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla are last place.
After the 3rd round, Emily Johnson, Nate Silver, and Davis Brigman are all tied! Chris Knickerbocker is second place. Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla is third place.
After the 2nd round, Emily Johnson are first place! Nate Silver and David Brigman are tied in second place. Chris Knickerbocker is third place. Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla is last place.
Davis Brigman and Emily Johnson are tied for first place! Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla is now last place.
Silver is tied for last place with Chris Knickerbocker. Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla, Emily Johnson, and Davis Brigman are tied for first place!