The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 19, 2014

Can classes yield a billion-dollar bracket?

(Continued)

Over the past few years, Chartier's system has helped a handful of Davidson students finish in the top 2 or 3 percent in different contests, including one run by ESPN, which gets more than 1 million entries. His system weighs a number of variables, including records, strength of schedule and, most notably, how teams are currently playing. (That last factor is one the NCAA selection committee leaves out of its seeding considerations.)

"The key to it is not necessarily doing some amazing thing that nobody's ever done," Chartier says. "The key is weighting it but weighting it with an ability to identify when a team is strong."

At St. Joseph's, alumnus Joe Lunardi, who is widely credited with creating the "science" of bracketology, offered a $99 course in which he shared some of his trade secrets. The final exam involved filling in the names of the teams on a mock bracket. (Lunardi himself probably would've gotten an A-minus: He nailed 10 of the top 12 slots, but, like most people, never saw North Carolina State making it and SMU left out.)

The University of Cincinnati business school offers a class that meets three Saturdays before Selection Sunday. Professor Mike Magazine teaches the history of the NCAA tournament and also how to go through probabilities and game simulations to come up with a winning bracket.

"The life lesson," Magazine says, "is that we make a lot of decisions that are the right decisions, but the outcomes don't always come out the way we planned."

Buffett is betting on that.

Quicken Loans paid Buffett's holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, an undisclosed amount to insure the billion-dollar payoff. Guesses are Buffett received anywhere between $1 million and $10 million, and, according to Bergen's calculations, anything more than $1 million would be a very good investment.

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