March Madness: Will Virginia Beat UMBC? A.I. Predicts

The Virginia Cavaliers are the number one overall seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, and their “reward” is one of the toughest regionals in all March Madness. But at least they have an easy opener against the 16-seeded UMBC Retrievers, right?

The Cavaliers can see four other major-conference champions staring up at them in their corner of the bracket. UMBC — short for University of Maryland, Baltimore County — isn’t nearly as imposing, but it did just win its way into the tournament with a dramatic last-minute victory over the very good Vermont Catamounts, so that’s… maybe something. In any event, a hive mind of college basketball fans predicts the winner of this first round game.

To predict the result of this and other games, Unanimous A.I. used what’s known as swarm intelligence to forecast the week’s slate. About 50 college basketball fans worked together as a hive mind to make picks. As you can see in the animation below, each participant controlled a little golden magnet and used it to drag the puck toward the answer they thought was the most likely outcome. As the users saw the puck move toward a particular outcome, it triggers a psychological response. They readjust their decision-making, building toward a consensus. 

Unanimous A.I.

The swarm is very confident that Virginia will take the win in this match up. This pick was made with 94 percent of the hive mind’s brain power, making it almost a certainty.

Read more from Inverse: The Perfect NCAA Bracket Is A.I.’s Biggest Sports Challenge Yet

Unanimous A.I. has made some scarily accurate predictions in the past using swarm intelligence, as our previous article explains. For instance, the swarm picked this year’s Oscar winners with 94 percent accuracy. Here’s Unanimous A.I. founder Louis Rosenberg explaining swarm intelligence at a recent TEDx Talk.

The game tips off on Friday at 9:20 p.m. Eastern in Charlotte, North Carolina on TNT.

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