Watch March Madness bracket: The astronomical odds of selecting a perfect bracket – Latest News

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Watch March Madness bracket: The astronomical odds of selecting a perfect bracket – Latest News


It is one of the few things in sports which has never been achieved before.

March Madness is a few weeks which many sports fans have circled on their calendars. And one of the favorite activities associated with the climax of the college basketball season is being able to fill out one’s bracket.

Will X team continue its dominant form and romp through its competition? Or will there be an upset on the cards?

These are the kind of questions fans will be asking as they fill in their brackets, hoping to successfully predict each result in all 63 games up until a national champion is crowned.

However, the feat of correctly predicting every result in a March Madness has remained elusive.

And given the odds of correctly doing so, it might be a while until we see it done – if ever.

David McCormack of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks the ball against the Villanova Wildcats during the second half in the semifinal game of the 2022 men's tournament in 2022.

Filling in your bracket can be a simple or a complicated process.

Once all teams are selected and given seeds, some choose to deliberate for hours over each game, flip-flopping between outcomes before finally settling on a winner. Others decide to blitz through the process, not deliberating too much over each choice as they plot the path of each team.

But they all have one thing in common: members of both camps have never been able to successfully predict every possible result.

A bracket is a way of referring to the 68-team format which plots the route of each team if they were win their matches. After teams are seeded, they are split into four regional groups and scheduled against teams at the other end of seeding scale. For example, the first seed faces the 16th seed and the second faces the 15th and so on.

Following the opening round – colloquially called the “First Four,” which sees four teams exit – the remaining 64 teams play in elimination games in neutral venues to eventually crown the national champion.

Due to the number of upsets and “Cinderella” stories March Madness tends to throw up, it has proven an impossible feat so far: the odds of getting every result correct are an extraordinary one to nine quintillion.

You might have not heard of a quintillion before. As explained by Tim Chartier – distinguished visiting professor at the US National Museum of Mathematics and Joseph R. Morton professor of mathematics and computer science at Davidson College – nine quintillion is a nine followed by 18 zeroes.

Or more simply put, according to Chartier, it is two to the power of 63. That’s two multiplied by two 63 times.

To put it into context: “I’m going to pick one second in 292 billion years, and your job is to tell me which second I pick,” Chartier explains.

If you’re struggling with the raw numbers, Chartier suggests a physical representation of the nine quintillion to help. He says that the height of nine quintillion dollar bills stacked on top of one another is equivalent to the distance of going from Earth to Pluto over 60 times.

Pelle Larsson of the Arizona Wildcats shoots against the Houston Cougars during the second half of their Sweet 16 clash in the 2022 men's tournament.

Because of the unlikely nature of achieving the perfect bracket in March Madness, the usual comparisons of the probability of getting struck by lightning or winning the lottery seem incomparable.

Chartier outlines that after running some calculations himself, he came up with some probabilities which help better put it into perspective.

“So you have better odds of winning the Powerball with two consecutive tickets than getting a perfect bracket,” he said. “You’ve better odds that a family of four will all get hit by lightning in their lifetime than picking a perfect bracket.

“There is a stat out there that there’s a one in 10,000 chance that you get injured by a toilet. So there are better odds that that same family of four all get injured by the toilet than picking a perfect bracket.”

Despite the long odds, fans come back every year to fill in their bracket in the hopes of becoming the first to successfully predict every correct result.

The longest streak of correct predictions came in 2019 by a neuropsychologist from Ohio who managed to pick the winner in the first 49 games of March Madness that year correctly.

Gregg Nigl became the first person to have a verified bracket which picked every game correctly through the tournament into the Sweet 16, only falling in the 50th game when No. 2 seed Tennessee lost to No. 3 seed Purdue in overtime.

But as daunting a task as it seems, Chartier believes it is a feat that will be achieved – he does admit that it may not be done in his lifetime.

And when it does happen, Chartier – who spends much of his time researching the art of bracketology and teaching people how to implement his research into March Madness brackets – believes it will be done by someone who knows “nothing about basketball.”

“They’re just going to, three minutes before some deadline, whip out teams that they like for their colors,” he said.

“And that’s because a lot of times you’re trying to predict literally the unpredictable, is that you’re trying to predict randomness, that there are certain games that that outcome is relatively random. Some of it isn’t. Sometimes, there’s something about a team that we just didn’t realize, it was the perfect match up for another team.”

Caleb Daniels of the Villanova Wildcats blocks a shot by Moussa Diabate of the Michigan Wolverines during the second half of their Sweet 16 game in 2022.

But while some might be dismayed by the long odds, Chartier believes the joy of picking your perfect bracket goes back to why we love sports.

“A lot of times people will ask me: ‘Oh, you didn’t have the right pick.’ And ironically I’ll often say: ‘Yes, I did. I didn’t have the correct pick, but it was the right pick,” he explains. “And the reason I say that is because sometimes that team probably had a five or 10% chance of winning that game.

“It’s just that when you flipped that weighted coin, it happened to come up on their side. It’s kind of like ‘The Hunger Games.’ The odds were ever in their favor. If they had played 10 more times, they wouldn’t win any other time, but they did on that day.

“And I argue that’s why we watch sports. I think we know that inside. I think we know that things can fall down the wrong way. And I think that part of the reason we like sports is that’s kind of a microcosm of life is that you might have actually made a good choice, you just didn’t make the choice in the way things would fall down.”

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