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NCAA’s official bracket this year also shows projections from Bing Predicts.

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Microsoft Bing is back at it again with March Madness picks, this year with more data to work with and an improved prediction algorithm.

ncaabing112Bing Predicts released its initial predictions for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Monday morning and detailed the reasoning behind its first round upset picks here.

As of Monday, Bing is picking 12-seed Arkansas-Little Rock over 5-seed Purdue; 12-seed UT-Chattanooga over 5-seed Indiana; 11-seed Gonzaga over 6-seed Seton Hall; 10-seed Pittsburgh over 7-seed Wisconsin; 10-seed VCU over 7-seed Oregon State; and 9-seed Butler over 8-seed Texas Tech.

Notre Dame and Arizona, both 6-seeds, could also be upset, but who they face will be determined by play-in games Tuesday and Wednesday before the tournament really gets going on Thursday.

As for the Final Four picks, Bing has Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, and Michigan State, with Kansas beating UNC in the final.

Here are the picks (click to enlarge):

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Bing crunches more than a decade of NCAA historical data to identify patterns that contribute to a team’s success. It also sorts through specific data from each game this season —win/loss ratio, distance from a team’s home campus to a given game, data related to conference tournament play, etc. — and uses “social signals indicating the wisdom of the crowd.”

binglogoOther services also offer data-driven March Madness predictions, like FiveThirtyEight, for example. And for those seeking advice, check out these tips from a Davidson math professor, as well as this insight from The Washington Post. The NCAA also has several expert predictions here.

Bing, which offers predictions for everything from the NFL playoffs to the Oscars, had a far-from-perfect performance during March Madness last year. Though Bing noted today that it was “in the upper 30 percent of all national brackets, beating those published by Google, Facebook, and Sports Illustrated,” it incorrectly predicted 9 of the 32 first round games, and missed 7 of the Sweet 16 teams. It correctly picked two Final Four teams — Kentucky and Duke — but picked Kentucky to win it all instead of Duke, which ultimately beat Wisconsin in the final.

Walter Sun, Principal Applied Science Manager at Bing, told GeekWire earlier this month that his team improved the prediction algorithm from last year.

“We expect to do better than last year,” Sun said. “Our learnings have improved the model.”

This year, Bing is the official “bracketologist” for the NCAA as part of a beefed up partnership. Last year during March Madness, Microsoft teamed up with the NCAA, which provided a decade of historical data to help improve predictions.

The NCAA will do the same this month, but as you can see above, now it is featuring Bing’s predictions on the official bracket at NCAA.com, exposing Microsoft’s search engine to a much wider audience. Bing is also hosting a “full bracket experience” on its own site.

In addition, Bing is predicting the outcome for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. You can see those projections here after the bracket is set Monday night.

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