Skip to main content

Google will broadcast real-time analytical predictions during the NCAA Final Four

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Google has teamed up with the NCAA for this year’s March Madness (it’s apparently the “official cloud” of the tournament), bringing machine learning and statistical analysis to decades of game data. But now they’re going even further, with an audacious real-time experiment that could well blow up in their face.

As a blog post from the Google Cloud team explains, a group of basketball enthusiasts, data scientists, and computer techs set out to analyze the data from 80 years of NCAA games and unleash machine learning on this massive pile of data to uncover trends or facts that might not be readily apparent.

For example, if you’re picking an upset, go with the cats — teams with a feline mascot are more likely to bust your bracket.

If you’re a statistics nerd, this is all interesting stuff, but so far the “Wolfpack” (that’s what the team is calling themselves) has focused on historical data culled from thousands of minutes played. But what if they turned their efforts to anticipating what would happen next?

That’s exactly what they’ll be doing this weekend, and they’ll even be airing their predictions in a commercial set to air during halftime of the Final Four games.

Other sports have been using predictive models for quite some time, of course. For instance, baseball uses WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to estimate how much a player will add to a team’s win total as compared to a hypothetical average player. That’s over an entire season though, with hundreds of at-bats. The Google team is planning to estimate what will happen in the final 20 minutes of a single game, which is a tiny sample size.

During the first half, the team will use all the data they can gather and crunch the numbers up, down, and sideways against historical tournament performances, team tendencies, basic strategies, and anything else they can come up with to produce statistical predictions that they think are highly probable to occur.

On site at the Alamodome in San Antonio, they will then quickly turn their predictions into a television ad, which will be passed on to CBS and Turner to air on TBS just as the second half begins.

They aren’t planning to predict the game winner, so don’t get your bookie on the phone just yet. The predictions could be anything — number of three-point attempts, offensive rebounding percentage, even minutes played.

“One of the exciting things about running an experiment like this in real time is we don’t know for sure what will happen,” the team wrote on their blog. They could be right on the money or wildly off base. Either way, it will be fun for number-crunchers everywhere to watch the results of their experiment unfold in real time.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Austin
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark’s first encounter with high-tech was a TRS-80. He spent 20 years working for Nintendo and Xbox as a writer and…
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more