Odds of picking a perfect March Madness bracket: About 1 in 9.2 quintillion

by WorldTribune Staff, March 19, 2019

From office pools to contests sponsored by major sports networks, NCAA basketball bracket challenges are hugely popular.

But is it possible to pick the perfect March Madness bracket, one in which all 63 games are successfully filled in?

According to NCAA.com it’s never been done in any online contests – not even close.

But it is possible. The odds are 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

To calculate the total number of ways to fill out a bracket take the total number of possible outcomes for each game (2) and multiply it out 63 times, or 2^63.

In 2017, NCAA.com reported that someone successfully picked 39 games to start the tournament. At NCAA.com, Bleacher Report, CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo!, one March Madness bracket remained perfect through 39 games before busting in the final matchup on the third full night of games, when Purdue beat Iowa State. It is the longest verified streak ever recorded.

In 2018, most brackets were busted on the first Friday night of the tourney. That’s when No. 16 seed UMBC upset No. 1 seed Virginia, something that had not happened before in the tournament’s history.

The current bracket format has existed since 1985. NCAA.com estimated that somewhere between 60 million to 100 million brackets are filled out every year.

“The odds are decent that someone, somewhere has done better” than 39, NCAA.com said. “Determining an official record is made even more difficult by the fact that online games only recently have begun comprehensive record-keeping.”

NCAA.com said it could not find any verified brackets that have been perfect into the Sweet 16 (through 48 games). “There was a widely reported instance of a bracket that was perfect through two rounds in 2010, but there was no way to verify the bracket’s authenticity. It had been entered in an online game where picks could be altered between rounds according to a Deadspin report at the time.”

The 2019 NCAA basketball tournament tips off on March 19. The championship game is set for April 8 in Minneapolis.

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