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NCAA bracketology lessons work in business too, oddsmaker says

An NCAA men's basketball bracket can offer lessons

An NCAA men's basketball bracket can offer lessons in business, an oddsmaker says. Credit: AP/Nati Harnik

Lessons used in crafting an NCAA men's basketball bracket can be applied to business decisions as well, a Las Vegas oddsmaker says.

In an interview, R.J. Bell, a provider of odds to the Associated Press and chief executive and founder of Las Vegas-based betting media company, offered three techniques from his industry that could be applied to business in general.

Lesson No. 1: Look for patterns.

"Find elements of the endeavour that are repeatable," Bell said. For instance, the ultimate NCAA champion is almost always a team seeded four or better, he said.

That means that 5-seeded Auburn, which made it to the Final Four, is "not viable" to win the title.

"History says this isn't going to happen," Bell said. Likewise, double-digit seeds rarely make it to the Final Four.

Lesson No. 2: Leverage information from other domains.

Bell said that looking beyond your own industry can pay dividends.

For example, people working on Wall Street might look at the real estate market for clues on the economy. A book publisher might consider Google's search-term rankings for help in determining what books to publish.

"That would be pretty instructive," he said. "Cross-pollination offers opportunity."

Lesson No. 3: Tap your social connections.

"In this social media-connected world, there are experts that you probably have loose ties with," he said.

"For instance, I'm going to Albuquerque," he said. "How many people do I know from Albuquerque? Zero."

But social media offers a "distributed network of experts" that could provide answers to questions such as: "Should I move to this town?"

So who does the oddsmaking expert think will win the NCAA championship this year? "My gut feeling is it's Michigan State," Bell said.


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