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Up In The Cloud: The NCAA Basketball Tournament Takes It To The Cloud
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Up In The Cloud: The NCAA Basketball Tournament Takes It To The Cloud - Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: The NCAA Basketball Tournament Takes It To The Cloud

Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: The NCAA Basketball Tournament Takes It To The Cloud

The odds against picking the winner of every game in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament vary depending on whom you ask. Some estimates have the odds as long as 1 in 9.2 quintillion or as easy as 1 in 1.6 billion. The varation comes from wild variables in trying to predict sports. While exact odds can be known in (assumedly) random and equal distribution in playing cards or dice rolls, a basketball game can be determined by a combination of factors like the distance a team travels to the venue, the moods and health of each player, the time of day at which the game is played, and seemingly countless other conditions.

There’s a reason some commercial sponsors put up a million dollars as prize money for the person who submits a perfect bracket. It’s likely never to happen.

Yet as many as 40 to 70 million brackets are submitted each year in national online contests and small office pools, and beginning with the 2018 tournament, people determined to grab their share of the prize money may have about as much information as the gambling experts. This is because the National Collegiate Athletics Association announced last week that it has established a partnership with Google Cloud Platform, with the intention of moving all of the NCAA’s records to the cloud. Google is now the official “cloud partner” of the NCAA, beginning with March Madness next spring.

It’s unclear yet how much of the data will be available to the public, but according to a Forbes article, the arrangement includes Google’s “analyitics and machine learning tools” for use by the tournament selection committee and sports fans. Although there are 68 spaces in the tourney, there is debate every year about which teams should be in and which left to make plans for next year. With robust data available at the committee’s fingertips, determinations might be made quickly based on real facts, and not the feelings or (worse!) reputations of the schools.

Depending on how searchable the publicly available data is, hobbyists might determine for themselves which data is relevant. In a second-round matchup between Radford and Florida, will determining factors be how well each team does in day games following night games? How about the performances of key players in nationally televised matchups?

We’re only talking about college basketball here, but there’s something more interesting going on: the emergence of publicly viewable, accessible data and (hopefully) tools for using the data according to the needs of the user, alongside the authorities’ use of that same data. Selection committees in college sports are notoriously opaque, announcing their tournament seedings with nary an explanation. Now we may be ushering in a time when authorities use data wisely and make it available for scrutiny. It will by no means settle every argument, but could we be arriving at a time when our disagreements are only on how the data might be interpreted, rather than on what that data might be?

When future decisions of real consequence (not that the chance to win a million dollars isn’t consequential) might be necessary, perhaps we will take it for granted that they--our public officials, school administrators, civic leaders, and health care professionals--will make them where we can all see them, under the computing power of a cloud of data, and not a traditional cloud of secrecy.

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Up In The Cloud: The NCAA Basketball Tournament Takes It To The Cloud - Executive Leadership Articles

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