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Beat the Computer: March Madness Edition

Here at the Turf, we never back down from a fight (with computers).

2015 Final Four by Edward H Blake is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Beat the Computer: March Madness Edition

Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

This past year, the best and brightest here at the Turf conducted a very smart, very scientific study to see how well humans fared against computers when picking DFS lineups for an entire NFL season.

TL;DR: We got smoked on a regular basis by our robot overlords.

Alas, we were bested. But we are far from undeterred. With March Madness upon us, we thought there would be no better way to get revenge on the machines than through a bracket challenge. Mano a mano. Our brains versus a computer algorithm, round two.

The rules here were simple. The Turf team filled out their bracket for the NCAA Tournament first. Once finalized, they created a single, computer-generated bracket courtesy of, surprisingly enough, the Wall Street Journal (for your reference, we set all “priorities” to the same level, and the “Madness Meter” in the dead-middle, to not make the computer sway too much towards picking totally randomly, or nothing but favorites). Here are the results.

The Brackets


Champion – Iowa (over Tennessee)

Final Four Matchups – Iowa vs. Connecticut, Baylor vs. Tennessee

The Computer

Champion – Arkansas (over BYU)

Final Four Matchups – Virginia vs. BYU, Arkansas vs. W. Virginia

The Takeaways

This contest is going to be lopsided, one way or the other, given the vast differences in later round matchups. The computer picked only 2 of the same teams as us to reach the Elite Eight, and we only share 5 Sweet Sixteen predictions. There’s a good chance we will know who the winner of this challenge will be after the first few days of this tournament.

Also, huge shoutout to the computer for picking 2 15-seeds (Grand Canyon and Iona) to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. The humans were not nearly so bold, with Syracuse (an 11) being our one double-digit seed two win at least 2 games. It may be the computer’s downfall, but the absurdity of those selections is to be respected.

So that’s it. The brackets are set. Will us humans lose to a computer algorithm once again? Or can the Turf team put one in the win column for the humans?

Let the madness begin.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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