For the Best March Madness Bracket, Leave Your Feelings Out of It

Tim Chartier stands on stage by presentation and talks to audience

Davidson College Math Professor Tim Chartier shares his "bracketology" expertise to hundreds of middle and high school students.

If you remember nothing else about math, store this thought: Don't base your basketball brackets on emotion.

With the NCAA Tournament bracket selection frenzy in full swing, a group of middle and high school students visited Davidson College to get a lesson in the art and math of Bracketology.

When Davidson College Math Professor Tim Chartier talks brackets, people listen. Though the nationally renowned March Madness bracket expert and Wildcats Basketball advisor does stipulate that he and his students aren't always right:

"And people will say, ‘but you're wrong,'" Chartier said. "Of course, I'm wrong, but I know I'm going to be a whole lot more right than you."

To his point, Chartier's student-selected brackets have scored as high as 99.9 percent in their selections, beating millions of others in ESPN challenges.

Chartier talked about choosing brackets through methods ranging from analyzing wins and losses to calculating shooting percentages to picking out winners because you like the college's name (as his 7-year-old daughter did when she selected The University of Dayton to win a big game some years ago).

She was one of the few to get it right.

"It's really interesting that you can figure out how to get a better chance," said Cole Guill, an 11th grader at The Community School of Davidson. "I'm definitely going to try some of this out."

High school math teachers Janis Houlihan and Andi Snyder plan to take some strategies back to their classes to use in lessons.

"It's great, it helps peak their interest in math," Houlihan said. "They've already set up their brackets -- this is giving them information to figure out how to make their choices and fill them in."

Chartier says you don't have to love math or basketball to learn from their intertwining. But if you do have a passion for a certain team, you should probably detach during the selection process.

"Usually it is the non-sports fan who wins the bracket," Chartier said. "Be very careful about making your bracket the one that you want to win."

That resonated with Brandon Ellington, a Community School of Davidson basketball star who hopes to pursue a career in a math-related field. He and his friends have picked brackets for years, but this time will be different, he said.

"I usually don't do too well because I use games that I've seen and have teams that I care about and it sways my opinion," Ellington said. "I feel like doing it Tim's way will make me a little less biased.''

Media Coverage


  • March 21, 2019