The Odds of a Perfect Bracket


Ben Stanard, Staff Writer

The chances of winning a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Despite these absurd odds, over 70 million people will fill out a bracket. Becoming the first person ever to fill out a perfect bracket entices many to try their luck, and a cash prize of millions makes the time and effort very worthwhile.

While the odds of perfecting a bracket are astronomically low, this number can be deceiving because some matchups are much more predictable than others. Most contests often go as expected based on seeding. However, NCAA statistics show that #11 seeds beating #6 seeds more frequently results in an upset than many other first round matchups.

One WJ March Madness participant, senior James Potter, said that he participates despite the odds because of how much he enjoys seeing how his predictions turn out. He stated, “I compete in tournaments with my friends to see who has the best bracket.” He adds that it connects him to his friends as they all can talk and argue about the tournament.

Many people who compete in March Madness get their friends to join by placing bets on brackets with them. Another competitor, senior Seth Carr, also enjoys this competitive aspect of bracketology. “You can place small bets on your brackets with your friends, and it feels great to win,” he said.

People employ different strategies to fill out brackets, and statistics are often used to help participants fill out the best ones. For example, predicting how many upsets will happen is crucial to success. NCAA statistics show that there have been an annual average of roughly 12.2 upsets in the tournament since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985.

Data shows that once winning in the first round, #9 seeds only win in the second round 8% of the time, while #8 seeds will win in the same round nearly 20% of the time. Historically,  teams with great success, including Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas, will often go far in the tournament no matter what rank they are. These teams are good bets to make the Final Four each year.

However one chooses to fill out their brackets, there is no doubt that millions will enjoy seeing how their predictions turn out this year. And, as for creating that perfect bracket, the NCAA says, “This will not be the year. And neither will next year, or any in the next millennium.”