Randomness in Competitions

Eli Ben-Naim
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Sports competitions are investigated using a mathematical model in which a weak team can upset a strong team with a fixed probability. Theoretical analysis of this random process, using scaling techniques and extreme statistics methods, captures many observed characteristics of real sports competitions in leagues, tournaments, and championships. This theory helps us better understand sports competitions through quantitative measures for parity and predictability as well as efficient algorithms for scheduling games.

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