The infamous March Madness bracket started in 1939 with a construction of 8 teams. The championship was held between the Oregon Webfoots and the Ohio State Buckeyes with the Webfoots beating the Buckeyes, 46 to 33. To this day, it is a long-standing tradition for sports fans to fill out March Madness brackets each year in response to this illness created by Basketball’s founder, James Naismith. Interestingly enough, even though there are approximately 60 million people filling out brackets each year, there has never been a perfect bracket recorded. In fact, the odds are so unlikely, we may not see our first perfect bracket for 400 years!
So what exactly are the odds of a perfect bracket? There are 67 games (68 teams) in the bracket this year if you count the First Four games on March 15th and 16th in Dayton, OH (Vanderbilt/Wichita State, FGCU/Fairleigh Dickinson, Michigan/Tulsa, Holy Cross/Southern U.). Given all of the games, there are around 147 Quintillion combinations (9.2 Quintillion without First Four). Out of those, only 1 can be correct! To put that number in perspective, there are only about 7.5 Quintillion grains of sand on earth.
Every year we are introduced to teams that no one, not even sports-minded people, have seemed to have heard of. In 1950, the team from The City College of New York won the championship. This year, we have unfamiliar teams in the bracket such as aforementioned Fairleigh D’Son, CSU Bakersfield, Austin Peay, and Stony Brook. This tournament is great for those teams, allowing for more national recognition the deeper into the tournament they progress.
When it comes time to make selections, the more knowledge you have of advanced statistics, the better. History also helps; a number 1 team has never lost to a 16th seed and the final four rarely has all number 1 seeds. The problem is picking the right ones. Another interesting note is that about 25% of all outcomes are upsets, meaning the higher seeded team loses. The lowest-seeded team to win the tournament was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats as an 8 seed. Nova has a great chance to win it all again this year, as they are a number 2 seed in a relatively week South region.
Every year, ESPN and many other networks take a look at how many perfect brackets are left after every few games and the numbers just get smaller and smaller. It is nearly impossible to get past just the first round unscathed.
Think you have a great shot this year? You can fill out your bracket for this year’s March Madness here. All I can tell you is GOOD LUCK. A couple of years ago, a 12-year-old from Chicago had the highest scoring bracket in ESPN’s tournament challenge.
The best part about tournament time are the friendly bets placed among friends, coworkers, or colleagues for bragging rights of who has the best bracket when it’s all over. As mentioned previously, when you think you’ve filled out your bracket perfectly, you haven’t. Good luck to everyone this year, maybe someone can reach perfection!
Matthew is an Graduate MBA student at Indiana University. He is involved in data analysis, market research, and statistics. He enjoys reading, writing and community involvement.