More than 11 million brackets were submitted to the ESPN Tournament Challenge in the days leading up to the 2015 Men’s NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament. But by Saturday’s end, only one perfect bracket remained.
Dr. Dae Hee Kwak, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, decided to try flipping a coin in 2011 to see if chance could outperform the experts on picks for the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Kwak pinned the coin’s choice against well-researched picks by participants of a formal study on betting behaviors, the findings of which were recently published in the Journal of Gambling Studies.
After 63 flips, his chance bracket scores performed slightly higher than those of the study participants.
Kwak found that while participants’ reported more confidence when in control of their own picks, that confidence did not translate to increased winnings, or any winning at all.
In that year, none of the top seeded teams advanced to the Final Four.
“Everyone’s bracket got blown,” Kwak said in an email to PBS NewsHour Weekend.
This year, Kwak is at it again — tossing coins to see how those picks will perform against well-informed ones.
As of Friday, his researched picks yielded a score of 110 while his coin-flipping practice got a score of 80. The scores are based on ESPN’s bracket challenge, which gives players 10 points for each correct pick in Round 2, 20 points for Round 3, 40 in 4 and so on.
But he plans to persevere with the coin-toss strategy.
“We’ll see how it turns out at the end, as much higher points are assigned for later rounds,” he said.