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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 19th, 2013
05:23 PM ET

Numbers guy Nate Silver predicts March Madness

Nate Silver makes stats sexy, he is the "Good Will Hunting" of political prognostication. Silver rose to prominence when he called the 2008 presidential election correctly in 49 out of 50 states.

In 2012, when he predicted that President Obama would win a second term, he won praise from liberals, but conservatives, clinging to what turned out to be a false belief in their own anachronistic polling, made Silver their personal whipping boy. When Silver tweeted out an offer to bet $1,000 on an Obama win, he further antagonized the right. But then the results rolled in.

Anyone who doubted Silver and his analytic model had to eat their words, after he called the 2012 presidential results correctly in all 50 states.

Now he's trading politics for sports. When it comes to the NCAA bracket, last year Silver's March Madness forecast model showed Kentucky was the favorite to win. Sure enough, 20 days later, the wildcats were cutting down the nets at the Superdome. And now he's out with a new bracket for this year.

"Sports fans are actually more rational, I think, than political geeks," says Silver. "This is relatively fun for me compared to talking about the polls, the sequester or something like that."

Silver's model accounts for who a team played during a regular season and by how much they won or lost, injuries, and travel distance.

Silver's top picks are mostly number one seeds: Louisville, Gonzaga, Indiana.

"The only non-number one we have is Florida, as number three. Kansas is a good team, as well," says Silver. "Florida's team, I think, has been a little bit overlooked. They lost a lot of close games. People hold that against them."

Critiquing The Lead's Jake Tapper's bracket, Silver said he would debate the CNN anchor over his Miami pick.

"Miami is a little bit maybe overrated. They're ranked pretty high in the polls, but they took some bad losses earlier in the year ... yes, they had some big wins, but are they consistent enough to win six games?" asks Silver. "The computer rankings say they probably should be number three or four seed, and not number two."

For more of our interview with Nate Silver, click on the video above.

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