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MSU alumni developed website to use advanced stats to fill out brackets

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Two former Spartans launched a website helping people use actual math and stats to fill out NCAA Tournament brackets

Illinois v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Everyone has their own method to filling out a bracket – a false sense of knowledge of mid-majors, random guesses, favorite mascots – all real technical things. But a pair of Michigan State alumni have developed a website that actually allows people to compare teams using a wide variety of stats, and fill out a bracket accordingly.

The website algebracket.com is simple enough to use, but goes well beyond what most people can do while filling out a bracket. Visitors to the website start with a full 68-team bracket with 24 stat categories underneath. Users then decide how important they think each stat is, 10 being the most important and 0 being the least. As the stats are given importance, the bracket is filled out in live-action, with each stat change altering who would win that matchup.

The result is a completely personalized bracket, with a winner in each game from the opening round through the championship game.

While the website was launched a few years ago by alumni Adam Wilcox and Peter Rifel, this is the first year it’s really being pushed to the masses. But for for Wilcox, filling out a bracket this way has been a part of March since he was in high school.

“I used to do this in high school but i did it on paper and it was only for my own benefit and it would take me hours and hours. In college i started doing it on excel spreadsheets,” Wilcox said. But it wasn’t until he moved to Seattle and met Rifel that he realized putting everything on the computer would make it all easier.

So just like that, at LTD Bar and Grill in Seattle, the concept for the website was born. Since then, features have been added and adjusted. The formulas have even been applied to previous seasons, dating back to 2010, allowing users to see how well they would have done using their own evaluations in previous tournaments.

But all of this is far from turning March Madness into a math problem. It’s still up to the user to determine which stat is most important, and even knowing what has worked best in previous years doesn’t give away any answers. Wilcox, who still uses the site for his personal bracket, said one year to another the stats don’t tend to line up. Instead, it’s better to try and find a season that feels similar to this one, and seeing what worked best then. However, the two are working on collecting enough data to find what stats have been the most consistent over the years.

For a website that was just put together for fun, Wilcox and Rifel have some exciting plans. After getting settled with the NCAA Tournament, Wilcox said they could transition to the College Football Playoff, conference basketball tournaments, the women’s tournament or any other sports event in bracket form.

All that work has brought plenty of interest to the site. But Wilcox said it was never supposed to be a money-maker for the two. The ads on the site, Wilcox said, are just to increase SEO performance. So instead of receiving money from people interested in the website, they found a new way for fans to show their support – donate to charity.

“We were really inspired by what the Izzone did and wanted to follow suit,” Wilcox said. The two former Izzone members said that like the basketball student section, they would like to donate as much money as they can to The Firecracker Foundation, a charity supporting children who have survived sexual trauma. The same charity supported by the Izzone earlier in the year.

Visitors to the site can click a link right from the homepage to donate to the Firecracker Foundation. Algebracket sends visitors directly to the charity, and doesn’t receive any money at all. “Seeing what the students have done and what the current players said, it’s really inspiring for the younger generation,” Wilcox said.