Live 2017 March Madness Bracket

The madness is upon us.

The 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament starts today, March 16, and they’re not kidding when they call it March Madness. There are 64 teams playing in 32 games over the next two days, and that is only the first round. How to keep track of all the updates? With the software that helps us keep track of any large amount of information, Tableau!

Below is a custom Tableau dashboard that shows the infamous bracket, which displays the entire tournament’s progression in one view. Using the power of Tableau, this bracket will remain automatically updated (every 24 hours, that is) throughout the entire tournament.

How does this thing work, you ask? Great question. The answer: magic. Well, that and a little bit of technology.

The live updating comes from how the backend is set up. This Tableau dashboard is hosted on Tableau Public, the free, online version of Tableau (hence only updating every 24 hours). It is connected – via extract – to a Google Sheet you can view file here. This Google Sheet is ours, but connects live to another sheet I found on the internet by a very smart person named Ted Juch (their sheet can be found here. Our Google Sheet takes Ted Juch’s public data as it is being updated, and does the preparation for Tableau to properly process. Our Google Sheet also has what is called a “shapefile”, which will tell Tableau where to put this data on the visualization.

Now, for the other part of the magic: making Tableau properly illustrate something not available out-of-the box, like a basketball bracket. The full process is described really well here, but the short version is that we are putting custom shapes (Tableau thinks they’re country/state/zip code boundaries) over what Tableau thinks is a custom map. Using good old high school math, each one of these team rectangles are drawn by the X and Y coordinates of where we want them over the background image of the bracket.

Using identifiers like round, game, and team number, Tableau is able to connect that location data, with the live data. And there you have it, magic.

If you’re interested in dissecting this thing entirely, you can download the workbook from Tableau Public, and view the spreadsheets linked above. You could also just watch the games. But if that’s not as exciting, I totally get that too.

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