Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Billion Dollar Bracket

In case you haven’t heard, a $1 billion prize awaits that lucky someone who can predict a perfect 2014 Men's NCAA basketball tournament bracket in Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge (backed by Berkshire Hathaway CEO, Warren Buffett).

The question that leaps to my mind is: How lucky would I have to be to win?  According to USA Today, there are roughly 9 quintillion ways to fill out the bracket Huh? If you, like me, need help navigating the murky world of statistics, let me recommend Charles Wheelan's Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from Data.  Wheelan brings mathematical concepts to life with entertaining chapters like: "Inference: Why my statistics professor thought I might have cheated" and "Correlation: How does Netflix know what movies I like?" The San Francisco Chronicle calls Naked Statistics, “The best math teacher you never had . . . filled with practical lessons, like how to judge the validity of polls, why you should never buy a lottery ticket, and how to keep an eye out for red flags in public statements.”

What were the chances of Ireland, Indiana, population 400, sending a team to the Sweet Sixteen of Indiana High School Basketball in 1963?  Almost impossible—given the team’s physical limitations (the tallest starter was 5'9") and the strength of the competition—but it happened.  Mike Roos describes the rocky road to victory in One Small Town, One Crazy Coach: The Ireland Spuds and the 1963 Indiana High School Basketball Season. If you grew up in Southern Indiana and don't mind a little reimagined "honest to goodness" Hoosier dialog, you'll want to revisit this amazing story.

For a nostalgic road trip around the state, check out Kyle Neddenriep's Historic Hoosier Gyms: Discovering Bygone Basketball Landmarks.  Neddenriep presents a brief history of 100 memorable gyms complete with current, color photographs (inside and out).  And on a final high note, check out newly-published Wooden: A Coach's Life by respected sports analyst, Seth Davis, which tells the story of the former Purdue All-American player who led UCLA to a record-breaking run of 10 NCAA championships in twelve seasons.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to fill out my bracket.

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