Everyone has the hope of picking a perfect bracket and winning a large sum of money for doing so entering the NCAA Tournament. Just be ready for disappointment since the odds on doing so are roughly 9,223,372,036,854,775,808-to-1.
Yes, that’s over nine-quintillion-to-one! Want to put that massive number in perspective? Nine-quintillion is one billion times nine billion.
Of course, that number makes a lot of assumptions. Using common-sense (like that a No. 1 has never lost to a No. 16) and adjusting for expected odds there is definitely better than that 9.2 quintillion-to-1 shot at picking a perfect bracket, however, it’s still something like one in 2.4 trillion in a best-case scenario!
There are a few mathematicians that have attempted to narrow this number down even further, but all have admitted it’s nearly impossible to calculate the true probability since match ups (and therefore odds) change from season to season.
Maybe that is why so many online sportsbooks offer million dollar payouts to anyone giving it their best efforts. Even a few years ago, Warren Buffet offered $1 billion for a perfect bracket.
Has Anyone Ever Filled Out a Perfect March Madness Bracket?
No! At least none that has ever been reported. It’s really not surprising. Even if every person on the planet were to fill out 10 million brackets each, the odds are less than 1% that even one of them would have a perfect bracket. Of course, that’s even assuming that each one of them filled theirs out differently.
Even with around 10% of Americans filling out some kind of office pool bracket, and several of the ones participating filling out more than one, the odds of someone attaining perfection are not good.
With 319 million people living in the United States, that’s 31.9 million filling out brackets. If those participating each filled two different versions out, that’s 62.8 million brackets. It’s no wonder we don’t see people going flawless, even in years where the favorites hold serve.
Odds of Getting a Perfect Sweet 16 or Final Four
Even picking a perfect bracket to the Sweet 16 is extremely difficult at 282 trillion-to-1. The odds of picking a perfect Final Four come in at just over 2.8 quintillion-to-1. So, good luck with that!
Again, these odds are assuming each team in each match up has a 50/50 chance to win. We know from tournament history that is not the case, however, it does show just how difficult it is to achieve perfection.
You can check out my article on how each seed has done in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament to help you get a head start. Here is my bracket for the 2017 NCAA Tournament as I shoot for perfection. To do so, I’ll need to pick all 63 games right (excluding play-in games).