Georgia Tech computer system says Kansas to win men's NCAA basketball tourney. So do I

A computer ranking system out of the Georgia Institute of Technology was perfect this year in picking the teams in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games on Saturday. The system, dubbed LRMC, says Kansas will win it all Monday night.

So did I, so in a break from my usual relatively objective nature, I’ve decided to whip up a quick piece on this system. (My unscientific choice of the Jayhawks was based on seeing them play just once, a victory in the Big 12 conference championship game over Texas ).

The computer ranking system is called LRMC, short for Logistic Regression Markov Chain . While the system didn’t need to go too far out on a limb to pick this year’s four finalists – all No. 1 seeds heading into the tournament – it has corrected chosen 30 of the last 36 Final Four teams. It’s not perfect though. George Mason’s improbably 2006 run to the Final Four threw LRMC for a loop.

I’d probably have a better chance of explaining the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index used to help seed teams in the big tournament than getting into the mathematical innards of LRMC, but in a nutshell, it makes its picks using pretty basic data, including margin of victory and how teams fared in past games at home (more specifically, how playing at home helps a team win). The system also doesn’t give teams a lot of credit for winning close games. You can get at the original LRMC research paper here .

“As fans, we only get to see most tournament teams two or three times at most during the season, so our gut feelings about a team are really colored by how well or poorly they played the few times we've been watching,” said Joel Sokol, a Georgia Tech professor who designed the system with colleague Paul Kvam and also works on it with another colleague, George Nemhauser. “On the other hand, our system objectively measures each team’s performance in every game it plays, and mathematically balances all of those outcomes to determine an overall ranking.”

And there was no chance of LRMC showing favoritism for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets this year. The men’s basketball team finished at 15-17 and didn’t crack the 64-team NCAA championship bracket.


(Last year we took a look at the NCAA tourney finalists' tech set-ups )

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