Predicting the upsets for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament using machine learning

Contemporary Analysis (CAN) and Cabri Group and have teamed up to use Machine Learning to predict the upsets for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. By demonstrating the power of ML through our results, we believe more people can give direction to their ML projects.


Machine Learning (ML) is a powerful technology and many companies rightly guess that they need to begin to leverage ML. Because there are so few successful ML people and projects to learn from, there is a gap between desire and direction. 


We will be publishing a selection of games in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Our prediction tool estimates games where the lower seed has a better than average chance of winning against the higher seed. We will predict about 16 games from various rounds of the tournament. The historical baseline for lower seeds winning is 26%. Our current model predicted 16 upsets for the 2016 tournament. We were correct in 7 of them (47%), which in simulated gambling gave the simulated gambler an ROI was 10% (because of the odds). Our target for the 2017 tournament will be to get 48% right.


Remember, our analysis isn’t to support gambling, but to prove the ability of ML. However, we will be keeping score with virtual dollars. We will be “betting” on the lower seed to win. We aren’t taking into consideration the odds in our decisions, only using them to help score our results.


We will be publishing our first games on Wednesday 15th after the first four games are played. We won’t have any selections for the first four games as they are played by teams with identical seeds. Prior to each round, we will publish all games that our tool thinks have the best chance of the lower seed winning. We’ll also publish weekly re-caps with comments on how well our predictions are doing.


Understand the technique that finds a group of winners (or losers) in NCAA data can be used on any metric. Our goal is to open up people’s minds onto the possibilities of leveraging Machine Learning for their businesses. If we can predict things as seemingly complex as a basketball tournament (Something that has never been correctly predicted), then imagine what we could do with your data that drives your decisions?


If you have questions on this type of analysis or machine learning in general, please don’t hesitate to contact Gordon Summers of Cabri Group ( or Nate Watson at CAN (


Those interested in the detailed description of our analysis methodology can read the technical version of the article found here.

**Disclaimer: Any handicapping sports odds information contained herein is for entertainment purposes only. Neither CAN nor Cabri Group condone using this information to contravene any law or statute; it’s up to you to determine whether gambling is legal in your jurisdiction. This information is not associated with nor is it endorsed by any professional or collegiate league, association or team. Machine Learning can be done by anyone, but is done best with professional guidance.

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