Rose-Hulman students score in March Madness analytics challenge

Mar. 29—March Madness got off to a roaring start as four Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology computer science students applied their problem-solving and data analytical skills to earn honors in the NCAA's recent Crossroads Classic Analytics Challenge.

Seniors William Gardner, Xander Good, Nathan Loafman, and Xianshun Jiang were members of the Rose Miners team that placed third within the undergraduate division of a competition among 67 teams from seven Indiana colleges and universities.

They were asked to create predictive models that could help NCAA officials identify potential ticket purchasers for games in all rounds of the 2024 Division I Women's Basketball Championship, including the Final Four round after examining customer datasets, according to a news release from the institute.

"We were ready for this challenge because of the many types of assignments we're asked to tackle in our (computer science) classes. However, we were pleasantly surprised with how well we did. There was some stiff competition," said Gardner, the team's leader.

Each of the final qualifying teams practiced in separate conference rooms before making their final 10-minute presentation, along with a five-minute question-and-answer period, before a panel of judges of professionals from Salesforce Inc. and the NCAA.

The scoring criteria, which wasn't revealed until after the competition, featured (in order of importance) business application, creativity, presentation, technical skills, and visualization. The competition was co-sponsored by NCAA, Tableau, and Visualize Your Technology.

"Our team held their heads high and did a great job under some challenging circumstances," said team advisor Olga Scrivner, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering. She also was one of the competition's faculty champions.

Another faculty advisor who helped the team was John McSweeney, associate professor of mathematics.

The Rose Miners team will be sharing their model, presentation, and business solutions with members of the NCAA analytics unit.

This was the first year that Rose-Hulman has participated in the Crossroads Classic Analytics Challenge. The competition plans to expand to include teams from colleges and universities across the country, starting next year.