Probability and March Madness
Michael Northington, Vanderbilt University
Location: Stevenson 1206
Probability is one of the most important and, often, most misunderstood areas of mathematics. Applications of probability theory span from the most basic examples of flipping coins, to real world statistics used in everyday life, and even to the mechanics of the smallest particles that make up are universe. In this talk, we will cover some of the basic rules of probability theory and look at a few non intuitive results. Also, we will look at an interesting application where a probabilistic object called a Markov chain is used to predict the results of the NCAA tournament. As it turns out, this method, developed by researchers at Georgia Tech, has been overwhelmingly more successful than any other ranking system (such as RPI, AP poll, ESPN poll, Sagarin rankings, etc.) in predicting the outcome of NCAA tournament games. We will discuss the mathematics behind this model and some basics about the theory of Markov chains.