You’re more likely to be struck by lightning, have quintuplets, and even win the lottery than to pick a perfect NCAA tournament mount.
Millions upon millions of people fill out their NCAA tournament brackets each year; each of these brackets is blown without failure.
It doesn’t matter if you are a casual fan or a true enthusiast who spent months researching possible championships; There’s a pretty high chance you’ll never get close to a perfect March Madness Bracket.
Just like with sports betting, trying to hit the bracket is a huge part of the tournament today.
When you look at the odds of correctly predicting all 63 games, you can see why no one was ever successful and why no one ever succeeded.
If you randomly pick all 63 correctly, it means you will overcome the probability of one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s 9.2 trillion. To shed some light on this: 9.2 trillion seconds corresponds to 292 billion years.
People never fill in their brackets at random. However, if they did that, their chances of getting it right would be significantly less than if they knew anything about college basketball.
In 2020, data from the Bracket Challenge Game showed that the average player had a one in 120.2 billion chance of successfully picking a perfect bracket.
An easy way to contextualize this probability is to compare it to specific occurrences that also have extreme probabilities, but which are more likely than when a perfect bracket is hit.
First, let’s start by becoming a professional basketball player.
Of the nearly 540,000 players participating in high school men’s basketball, fewer than one in 35 will play college basketball and fewer than one in 75 will be inducted into the NBA.
This implies that a high school basketball player has a one in 3,300 chance of making it into the NBA. But even with that, the likelihood of nailing a perfect bracket is 36 million times greater.
Second, let’s look at a royal flush in a game of poker. This is usually the rarest hand and has a one chance in 854,315. Surprisingly, this is 185,000 more likely to happen than if you received a perfect mount.
Now think about the likelihood of being struck by lightning. There is a one in a million chance that this will happen. And that’s 120,000 times less than nailing a perfect bracket.
If you are thinking of being hit by a meteorite from space, you must be the unlucky one of 1.6 million people. That’s ridiculously unlikely, but it’s still 75,000 times more likely that you’ll nail the perfect bracket.
If you are thinking of winning the Lotto Max jackpot, you have a one in 33.3 million chance, and when you factor in the chance of giving birth to quintuplets, your only chance is 55 million natural births. The former is 3610 times and the latter is 2185 times more likely than you correctly predict all the results of the 63 games of the NCAA tournament.
The search for the perfect mount is still ongoing and this year millions of people will be motivated by the advances made by Gregg Nigl, who was closer than anyone before him in 2019.
He managed to predict 49 of 49 correctly right at the start of the tournament. However, his luck ran out when Purdue defeated Tennessee in Sweet Sixteen.
This was a very impressive run considering there is a 17,000-to-one chance of only picking the first few games in a row correctly.
Even with this constant success, the perfect bracket was still out of reach. In order for him to be able to predict the last 15 games of the Sweet Sixteen correctly, he had to overcome odds of one in 32,786.
Maybe it’s time to finally throw in the towel and admit that no one is ever going to hit the perfect NCAA tournament mount. This March, millions of hopefuls will be scrutinizing statistics and seeding.
Unfortunately, they will watch with dismay as their bracket popped in the first few games of the tournament.
However, it only takes one winner to break this trend. That could be you!