Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Jake Simpson reports at The Atlantic that Mathematician Tim Chartier, a Davidson College professor who specializes in ranking methods, teaches a math-heavy form of bracketology — the science of predicting the annual NCAA college basketball tournament at Davidson College in North Carolina. Chartier’s academic research is in ranking methods where he looks at things like the page-ranking algorithms of Google. "In 2009, my collaborator Amy Langville said: “You know what? ESPN has this huge online bracket tournament. Let’s create brackets with our ranking methods, just to see if it’s creating meaningful information.” Chartier’s formula, an evolving code-based matrix that ranks each of the 68 tournament teams, has helped several Davidson students score in the 96th percentile (or higher) in ESPN’s bracket challenge and this year, Chartier’s goal is to help someone win the $1 billion prize offered by Warren Buffett to anyone who correctly predicts all 63 games of the men’s tournament. Chartier uses two methods. One is the Colley Method, named after astrophysicist Wesley Colley who developed a method used by the BCS for college football (PDF). His basketball method only counts wins and losses, not margin of victory. The other method is the Massey method created by sports statistician Kenneth Massey (PDF), which does integrate scores. Chartier has not been banned from any office pools — at least none that he knows of. But as a result of coming pretty darn close to filling out a perfect bracket just by crunching the numbers, brackets have become a labor of love. "Now that the brackets are actually out, I've had students in and out of my office all week, sharing new ideas," says Chartier. "For me, that's more fun than filling out a bracket. They will all be filling out brackets, so it's like I'm doing parallel processing. I know what might work, but watching them figure out the odds, is a thrill."
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