Chances of a perfect March Madness bracket? 1 in 9.2 quintillion

Friday, March 13, 2015

By Lizzie Johnson

Chicago Tribune (TNS)

The probability of creating the perfect March Madness bracket is shockingly low _ as in less than1 in 9.2 quintillion (or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808) chance.

Jeff Bergen, a mathematics professor at DePaul University, crunched the numbers and discovered that it was nearly impossible to create the winningest bracket.

“The size of the number astounds people,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.” It’s more likely that the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox will win the next 16 World Series games, he said. Or that someone will win the Mega Millions lottery two times in a row buying one ticket both times. Or just as likely that someone will pick the winning party of each presidential election through 2264.

“If you want to sit down and do an experiment, grab a coin and flip it 53 times in a row,” Bergen said. “Every time you get a tail, that is basically a failed bracket. The only way to get a perfect bracket is if you flip heads 53 times in a row.”

Bergen calculated the likelihood by determining the percentage of chance someone would correctly guess the winner of each bracket, then multiplying the 53 numbers together.

There are exceptions, Bergen conceded. If you had a knowledge of basketball and the teams involved, that would up your odds. But not by much.

“Suppose you know that a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed in the men’s tournament,” he said. “That would help improve your odds.”

The chances of creating a perfect bracket with knowledge of the teams would still be only about 1 in 128 billion with those odds. Additionally, the chances of having a perfect bracket after the first round is about 1 in 17,000, he said.

“What I would like people to realize, even though it’s hard to get a perfect bracket, is that as long as you’re having fun and winning your office pool, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Perfection is nice, but there are lots of ways to have fun.”

By Lizzie Johnson

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