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March Madness: The Search for the Golden Bracket

March has long been considered a time of great change and growth. March signals the coming of spring and, after the abysmal winter griping much of the country this year, never has spring been more welcome. For much of the US population, however, March can only mean one thing – the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

To many sports fans, myself included, March Madness represents the purest form of any sports playoffs and an opportunity to witness some of the greatest sports moments of the year. Perhaps the best part of March Madness, however, are the many office pools, brackets, and predictions that come as a result of this tradition. This is a time of the year when the average cubicle dweller can demonstrate his or her sports related prowess and, should they win their bracket, lord it over their coworkers for the next year and possibly take home a little bit of cash at the same time.

During March Madness, even those without any interest in sports, much less college basketball, suddenly become fanatical experts about obscure teams like the BYU Cougars, Gonzaga Bulldogs, or, more likely this season, the Wichita State Shockers, who have managed to string together an undefeated winning streak of 34-0 thereby securing a No. 1 seat in the NCAA tournament. Quite an achievement for the lesser known school. It’s exactly these types of stories that draw together the CEOs with the mail clerks; the guys from accounting with the copier repairmen; and the sales teams with the IT group.

Because there is so much unpredictability inherent in the tournament, and because the format is so simple (one and done), anyone has a shot at winning their office pool. But, before you print off that bracket on Monday and start randomly picking teams, let’s take a moment to listen to what others are saying. And, what better way to poll the general public than by tapping into the buzz on social media.

Using Visible Technologies’ Visible Intelligence social listening platform, I’ve tuned into what people are saying about their picks and how they chose them.

Specifically, I wanted to know how people go about picking winners and which teams are getting the most support. And, while the trash talking and predictions won’t really kick into high gear until after Selection Sunday, there remains a good amount of chatter for us to analyze.

pic 1By drilling into the overall conversation, we can start to uncover the reasons why people pick the teams they pick and who they think will win. The methods by which bracketologists choose their winners are endless, however there are a few obscure techniques that seem to resonate more than others with those on social media. And, before you laugh, it is worth noting that anecdotal evidence shows that some of the more unconventional methods have proven successful in past years. How else could someone have picked the unranked 1988 Kansas Jayhawks to beat fifth-ranked Duke and fourth-ranked Oklahoma in the final to win the championship?

Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which people choose their teams and fill out their bracket.

pic 2

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It’s clear that there are still those who rely on a team’s record and perceived talent when choosing their winners, however, many people look to more unconventional methods for deciding who will win or lose.

And, now on to the winners.

Let’s cast a wide net and take a look at all of the teams by conference and measure the predictions made on social media. We are looking for people who are talking about what teams will make it past the first, second, and third rounds and into the final four and winning the championship.

We’ll break this down by region to make it a bit more manageable and then take a look at the favorites.

It looks like the majority of people are picking the more well-known teams and favorites to be more successful in the South. In the Eastern region, it looks like Texas is leading the picks despite not being a top ranked team. Could this be because of UT’s notoriously loyal fan base?

uconn

umass

In the Western region we are seeing more of the same with a few surprises. Arizona, UCLA, and Wisconsin are all showing a good amount of support as expected. These are all well know big schools with a large alumni base and a loyal following. However, some of the smaller, lesser known schools like Saint Louis and Baylor are making noise as well. Could this be a Cinderella story in the making? Only time will tell.

utah valley

The Midwest region seems to be a bit more evenly matched, but not without surprises. The glaring stand out in this region is the lack of support for this year’s stand-out underdog story, Wichita State. By the looks of it, people are more confident in Michigan and Virginia. Could it be that the Shocker’s strength of schedule (or lack thereof) has cast doubt on their ability to play at the top level?

oregon

After taking a look at each region, let’s examine the top seeds to see who is getting the support of social sphere. It appears that Florida is the favorite going into the tournament, however, anything can happen after the whistle blows.

arizona

Good luck to all of the teams and good luck to you in your study of bracketology!

Tags : social media

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