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Microsoft's Satya Nadella is picking March Madness winners better than Bing

Mark Hachman | March 26, 2015
Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer may have loved basketball so much that he bought the L.A. Clippers, but it's the current CEO, Satya Nadella, who's showing that he can pick the winners of the NCAA Tournament better than his predictive search engine, Bing.

That still doesn't explain how Nadella could surpass Bing, however. We asked for comment more than a day ago, but Microsoft has yet to respond.

The NCAA tournament began March 19, when the so-called "First Four" games were played, a play-in round to determine four at-large berths in the tournament. Google and Bing identified only one winner correctly out of all four games — Dayton over Boise State — while Nadella nailed them all. That helped him considerably.

As it turns out, however, it's Google that seems poised to run the clock down on Bing. Although Google missed three out of the First Four games, the low-ranked teams all fell to their top-seeded opponents, who went on to win as expected.

As a result, Google has gone on to pick certain sections of its bracket absolutely perfectly, including the quarter of the tournament played in the East Region. It predicted the upsets by NC State over Villanova, as well as Michigan State's upset over Virginia.

That's important, as an incorrect prediction early on has a ripple effect. Because Villanova was knocked out early, for example, Bing's subsequent predictions that the team would go on to win every game to advance to the Final Four can never come to pass. (In other words, there's no way to correctly pick the winner of a Duke-Kentucky final if you incorrectly predicted that Kansas would play Louisville in the final, instead.)

It's nice to know, though, that of the five celebrity ballots Bing published, an authentic basketball player actually leads the others: Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes, who has picked 39 winners correctly. But as we move to the final rounds of the tournament, it's the geeks in Bing's back room that will have to make the halftime adjustments just to have a tiny chance of remaining in the game.


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