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Picking the perfect bracket: Mathematical badness behind March Madness
How do you pick your winner?
Picking the perfect bracket: Mathematical badness behind March Madness
Published: March 15, 2022, 6:00 AM
Updated: March 15, 2022, 8:59 AM
Tags: March Madness, Mathematical Badness, Perfect Bracket
Let the games begin! Sixty-three games actually. I’m talking about march madness when 126 college basketball teams face off for the title of NCAA basketball champion.ORLANDO, Fla. – Let the games begin! Sixty-three games actually. I’m talking about march madness when 126 college basketball teams face off for the title of NCAA basketball champion.
This means it’s time to fill in your tournament bracket. But is it possible to pick a perfect bracket? Has anyone ever chosen every single winning team?Play & win: 🔒 Play the March Mania Bracket Challenge 🏀
There’s more math to basketball than just racking up two points here… three points there… how do you pick your winner?
We hate to tell you this, but your chances of picking a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket is low… really low. In fact, the experts who study the numbers behind march madness say that if you randomly pick your bracket, the chances of winning is about one in 9.2 quintillion.
You have a better chance of winning the Powerball twice in a row, researchers using statistical methods have only reliably picked about 70 percent of the games correctly, making the probability of a perfect bracket one in 5.7 billion.
If you could reliably pick the winner of each game 75 percent of the time, the probability of perfection jumps all the way to one in 74 million. Here’s one tip, it’s a safe bet to choose all the number one seed teams to win their first-round matchups against number 16 seed teams, considering in the entire history of the tournament, only one number one seed team has ever lost to a 16 seed.
Here’s hoping you will beat the odds and be the first to pick a perfect bracket.
The probability of a perfect bracket is so low that Warren Buffet offered a billion dollars to anyone who could pull it off in 2014, no one did.
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Best bracket in March Madness history: What is the longest
How close has anyone come to perfection? Sporting News looks back at some of the best March Madness brackets in history.
Best bracket in March Madness history: What is the longest-running perfect bracket?
Edward Sutelan 19 hours ago • 6 min read
Everyone who fills out a bracket in March Madness loves to dream that theirs will be perfect. That this will be the year they not only win their pool, but make headlines as the first ever to have a perfect bracket.
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Could it happen someday? Perhaps. But it's very unlikely.
Getting 63 games correct sounds difficult on its own, but the odds make it sound impossible. Based on the math, it would take more than nine quintillion brackets to be filled out in order for one to be 100 percent correct.
That's what makes the long streaks so fun. Hearing that someone has gotten the first 20-plus games correct feels like a major victory and a fun story, even if that isn't even out of the first round.
But who has come the closest? Sporting News takes a look back at some of the most valiant attempts at making history.TSN's MARCH MADNESS HQ
Live NCAA bracket | TV schedule | Predictor tool
What is the longest-running perfect bracket?
Back in 2019, Gregg Nigl picked the first 49 games correct. It was the first time a verified bracket had ever remained perfect through the Sweet Sixteen and well surpassed the previous record of 39 straight correct.
Nigl's perfect bracket finally reached its end when Purdue defeated Tennessee in the 50th game of the tournament.
It is very likely that record will stay put for quite a while. The odds of him even getting that many correct was 1-in-516,798,000,000,000. After he was perfect through 49, his odds of remaining perfect the rest of the way (based on a coin toss pick of each game) was about 1-in-16,384.MORE: Updated odds for every team to win the NCAA Tournament
The rest of his bracket did not go quite as well as the start. He correctly predicted that Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan State and Duke would reach the Elite Eight. He only nailed Virginia being in the Final Four, and had the Cavaliers losing to Kentucky in the semifinal, with Gonzaga beating the Wildcats in the championship. UVA went on to beat Texas Tech in the national championship that year.
Odds of a perfect bracket in March Madness
There's a reason Nigl's name will likely pop up every year around March Madness for a long time, and it's because he was closer than anyone before — or since — to pulling off the impossible.
The actual odds of a perfect bracket — based on a 50/50 shot of each game — is 1-in-9,223,372,036,854,775,808. Spelled out, that's one in nine quintillion, 223 quadrillion, 372 trillion, 36 billion, 854 million, 775 thousand, 808. With basketball knowledge, the NCAA expects the odds to go up to 1-in-120.2 billion.MORE: Why it's nearly impossible to pick all 63 NCAA Tournament games correctly
Best March Madness brackets by year
It did not take long for all the perfect brackets to go down in 2021. After the first day of action, there were only 121 perfect brackets. On the second day, Maryland's defeat of UConn eliminated the final three perfect brackets that had predicted the first 28 games correctly.
Everyone was perfect. No one was perfect. There was no tournament, and there were no selections, which meant that any mock brackets filled out got nothing wrong and nothing right.
Nigl started the bracket with a perfect 49 games correct before getting one wrong. It stands alone as the best start to a verified bracket of all time.
There were 25 brackets that believed they were on fire through the first 28 games of the tournament. Then came game No. 29. That cleared the field out.
Before Nigl shattered the record in 2019, one Yahoo bracket had set the pace for the most games unscathed in March Madness. One bracket got the first 39 games correct, but the run came to an end when Purdue beat Iowa State.
There were no brackets that made it past the first round. One bracket reached 25 games in a row to start the madness, but Stephen F. Austin defeating West Virginia halted that final bid for perfection.
ESPN's bracket game set a then-ESPN Bracket Challenge record with 34 straight correct picks. It wasn't until Arizona beat Ohio State that the perfect run came to an end.
There was one Yahoo bracket that went perfect through the first 36 games that had previously set the record for the longest streak. Yahoo reported it was the only time there had ever been a perfect first round in the site's history.
BASKETBALL NCAA-BASKETBALL Author(s) Edward Sutelan
Edward Sutelan is a digital content producer for The Sporting News. He has previously worked for PennLive, The Cape Cod Times and The Columbus Dispatch, and is an Ohio State University graduate.
The absurd odds of a perfect NCAA bracket
Big casinos are so sure it won't happen that one is even willing to bet $100 million on it.
What are the chances on filling out a perfect bracket in NCAA basketball tournament?
You would have better odds of winning both the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots in the same week.
Author: KHOU 11 Staff
Published: 7:00 AM CDT March 17, 2022
Updated: 7:00 AM CDT March 17, 2022
HOUSTON — Every year, millions of people fill out a bracket for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. And while it is technically possible to get a perfect bracket, the absurdly overwhelming odds say it won’t likely happen.
In fact, there's never been a verified perfect bracket. Big casinos are so sure it won't happen that one is even willing to bet $100 million on it.
That's not all. Warren Buffet offered a $1 billion prize for a perfect bracket.
So what are the odds? They are 1 in 9.2 quintillion.
Some things that are more likely?
Getting struck by lightning – 1 in 1.1 million odds.
Or getting bitten by a shark – 1 in 3.7 million.
Or getting hit by a falling satellite. The chance of that happening is about 1 in 21 trillion.
Or get this – you would even have better odds of winning both the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots in the same week. Those odds are 1 in 45 quadrillion.KHOU 11 on social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
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