April 28, 2017

What are the odds of picking a perfect March Madness bracket?

2016/03/16 5:56 pm 05:56 pm0 0 comments

perfect march madness bracket odds

Depending on the year, the odds of a perfect bracket pick by college basketball fans during March Madness borders on the unlikely. Every year, the United States and basketball fans around the world download and fill out brackets for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Whether you are participating in an online contest to win money like those challenges found on ESPN, SI.com, and other major websites, or you are simply trying to win a pool against your friends and/or coworkers, filling out a bracket, like the Super Bowl and BBQ, is an American past time.

Warrant Buffet made big news back in 2014 promising a cool billion dollars to anyone who could pick a perfect bracket, and no one had any success. Although the variation of the traditional online bracket challenges definitely made for big news, it just went to show how hard it is to have a perfect March Madness record when predicting the brackets.

Is It Possible to Pick a Perfect March Madness Bracket?

Although it is theoretically possible to pick a perfect March Madness bracket, the odds of selecting all the correct winners are virtually impossible.

In 2013, 2014, and 2015 no one managed to do so on Yahoo!, CBS, or ESPN’s online bracket challenges. In many cases, there are some competitors who can actually make it past the first 16 games of the tournament with their bracket intact and if you make it out, your chances increase, but it isn’t a shoe in by any means. By day two the number of upsets that the odds just don’t predict typically overcome most brackets.

Before taking into account the seeds and other factors into predicting the games, if one takes each game on face value as having 50/50 odds on the winner, then the easiest way to calculate the probability is to multiply the total number of outcomes for each game (two), and then multiply it out 63 times for the total number of games that are included in the classic March Madness bracket (First Four typically does not come into pay for most bracket contests). These un-weighted odds come in at a very impossible one in over nine quintillion probability.

Does Taking Seeding into Account Help the Odds of a Perfect Bracket?

What about heavily-relying on seedings to increase your chances at a 100% bracket? The short answer is yes, that does help; taking seeding into account does help reduce the overall odds of a college basketball fan in picking a perfect bracket during March Madness. Now, how you calculate the revised probability is up for debate depending on what expert you speak with and the source of your data when incorporating skill of the respective teams into the equation.

In years past, there has never been a 16 seed lose to a one seed in March Madness, so that means that the probability of these games is not an even 50% that results in the worst-case probability in picking a perfect bracket. Depending on the data, this can improve one’s odds in picking a perfect bracket to something as good as one in five to 128 billion depending on the year. When the respective year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is more top heavy with higher rated teams, the odds will improve in the fan’s favor. When it is a year of greater parity in college basketball like 2016, the odds get worse since all teams verge on the mediocre.

How Should You Pick the Perfect March Madness Bracket?


First, if we had the perfect answer, we would probably pick the perfect bracket and let you read about our expert knowledge on ESPN or SI.com !!!  In all seriousness, when we do see a sports fan make that perfect bracket in public via online contest, the person will likely combine a mix of analytical approach to their bracket choices with several choices just based on their gut instinct. Best of luck with your NCAA Tournament Brackets this March Madness. We have a printable NCAA Tournament bracket posted here for you to enjoy, and we look forward to the action starting soon.

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