The odds of getting a perfect March Madness bracket

March Madness is enormously popular in the United States. It features 68 college basketball teams and is played mostly during March. UCLA Bruins is the most successful team in this competition as they won a record 11 championships while Virginia Cavaliers are the most recent champions who defeated Texas Tech in the final to win their first national basketball title. 

One of the biggest attractions for March Madness fans is that it offers them the opportunity to fill out a bracket and try their luck at getting their predictions right. Every year, a huge number of people engage in this activity. However, the odds of getting a perfect bracket are astronomical and no one has ever pulled off such a remarkable feat.

You will be surprised to know that the probability of correctly predicting all 63 matches at random is a mind-boggling one in 9.2 quintillion. Although these odds become much better if a person has some knowledge about the sport. However, even for an average player, the likelihood of getting a perfect bracket is still one in 120.2 billion.

Let’s take some examples for trying to understand this point a little better. We all know how difficult it is to become a professional basketball player. In the US, about 540,000 players take part in men’s high school basketball every year, and only around one in 35 make it to college basketball. And even fewer than one in 75 of those lucky few is drafted to the NBA. So, the likelihood of a high school player earning a chance to play in the NBA is about one in 3,300.

Well, that is still 36 million times more probable than picking a perfect bracket.

How about the probability of being struck by lightning? That’s still 120,000 times more likely than achieving perfection in your March Madness bracket. The odds of being hit by a meteorite are extremely low, but compared to a perfect bracket, that’s still 75,000 more likely to happen.

Considering all this, it seems foolishness of the highest degree to expect perfection through March. And it looks inevitable that every bracket will get busted at some point in March.

However, it is unlikely that numbers and probabilities will put a stop to the hunt for the perfect bracket. And this statement seems true for every type of sports fans in the world. No true soccer fan stops trying to predict the premier league player of the month because all their past guesses were wrong.

And those hoping to pull off this impossible feat of a perfect bracket will be encouraged by the story of Gregg Nigl who came closer to a perfect bracket at the last NCAA Tournament than anyone ever before.

It is said that Nigl called in sick to work on the first Thursday of the 2019 NCAA Tournament and was planning to take a nap before he came up with the idea to fill out a bracket. And that proved to be a greatly lucky decision as the neuropsychologist went perfect through the first round and the second.

Nigl thus became the first person in history to pick the first 49 games correctly. His brilliant streak was ended when Purdue beat Tennessee, 99-94, in overtime.