Every year, millions of fans watch the NCAA basketball tournament, filling out their brackets in the hopes of winning cash money. This year, Microsoft's Bing search engine will be adding its own predictions to March Madness, giving you an edge.
After the NCAA selection committee announces its picks this Sunday, Microsoft will begin issuing its predictions for the tournament. And yes, it will be filling out an entire bracket before the tournament begins, a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday night.
That's big, because while Microsoft's Bing has typically predicted a slate of winners for events like the Oscars, it hasn't done the same for its sports predictions. Instead, the company has gone game by game, offering its picks. And while that's useful for a straight-up bet with a friend, it doesn't offer the same advantage for the NCAA tournament, where March Madness pools require you to submit an entire bracket beforehand.
Last year, Intuit's Quicken Loans offered fans the chance to win a billion dollars if they filled out a perfect bracket, a feat that was almost mathematically impossible, given the permutations of the tournament. That offer isn't in place this year, but there are plenty of opportunities to win prizes, whether it be a $1 million prize pool or other competitions.
Microsoft said it would have more details this weekend, after the NCAA makes its selections. And it will either publish that bracket Sunday night or Monday morning.
Microsoft has used a variety of data to make predictions in everything from TV's The Voice and American Idol to the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the World Cup, NFL football games, and more. In terms of the basketball tournament, the company teamed with the NCAA to come up with its predictions.
"As part of this partnership, NCAA has pulled 10 years of raw historical data about teams, tournaments, win loss ratio, home vs. away stats, etc. and provided it to Microsoft's Walter Sun, principal applied science manager, to analyze and review," Microsoft said. "After culling through the information, running through Bing's algorithms and leveraging machine learning, Walter and his team have been able to identify key patterns over the years that contribute to a team's success."
How accurate will Bing be? Hard to say. Microsoft correctly picked the winner of the Super Bowl, but was about on par with Las Vegas oddsmakers in picking winners and losers during the NFL's regular season. But anything can happen during March Madness, and upsets are part of the fun. We'll see how bold Bing is in a few days, and who it picks to go all the way.