The Mind-Shuttering Odds of Getting a Perfect March Bracket

You have a one in 500,000 chance to be struck by a lightning in any given year, a one in 14 million chance of winning the lottery, a one in 55,000,000 chance of having quintuplets, and even less chance of getting the perfect NCAA Tournament bracket. 

Millions of people fill up their NCCA Tournament brackets every year, and not even a single one of these brackets ever get lucky. It doesn’t matter if you are a college football aficionado who has put in months of research in potential champions or you are a regular guy attempting to pick winners at random. The chances are nearly certain that you will never even get close to a perfect March Madness bracket. 

Similar to sports betting attempts to nail the perfect bracket is now a huge part of enjoying the NCAA Tournament. If you look at the odds of correctly nailing all the 63 games – which no one has ever done, you will understand why it is a near-impossible task. If you want to correctly pick all 63 games randomly, then you are staring at a one in 9, 223, 372, 036, 854, 775, 808. 

This is a one in a 9.2 quintillion chance. To put it into more perspective, there are 292 billion years in 9.2 quintillion seconds. It is not possible for anyone to fill all the 63 brackets randomly. However, you will be surprised that the odds of going 63 of 63 are enhanced if you have some knowledge and experience in college football. 

In 2020, data from the Brackets challenge was used by NCAA to determine that an average player has a one in 120.2 billion chance of getting a perfect bracket. Think about becoming a professional basketball player for example. Typically, about 540,000 players take part in men’s high school basketball. Out of this huge number, just one in 35 will proceed to play basketball in college, and less than one in 75 will proceed to get drafted to the NCAA. 

This implies that the chances of a high school basketball player making it to the NBA, is a mere one in 3, 300. Sounds unlikely, right? But this is still 36 million times more likely than getting a perfect bracket. Secondly, consider the chances of being dealt a royal flush. This is normally the rarest hand in a game of five-card poker, and the chance is always one in 854, 318. 

Well, when compared to getting the perfect bracket, this is 185,000 times more likely to happen. For you to be struck by lightning, you will have to be the unlucky one among one million people – odds of one in a million, yet, this is 120,000 times more likely than nailing the perfect bracket. And, for you to get hit by a meteorite from space, you will have to be the unlucky one among 1.6 million people – one to 1.6 million chance. 

But this is 75,000 more likely to happen than you getting the perfect bracket. Finally, winning the Lotto Max Jackpot offers a one in 33.3 million chance. This is 3610 times more likely than nailing the perfect bracket, and for you to have quintuplets, there is a one in 55 million chance, which is 2185 times more likely compared to getting the perfect bracket. 

However, the hunt for the perfect bracket is still on. This year, the majority of the people in search of the college football holy grail will be motivated by the exploits of Gregg Nigl. Gregg, in 2019, came closer to a perfect bracket than those before him, by managing to correctly predict the first 49 for 49 of the games. 

His streak ended in the Sweet Sixteen when Purdue beat Tennessee. This run was incredible, considering that the odds of getting just the first round of games right is about 17,000 to one. But that notwithstanding, getting the perfect bracket was still millions of miles away. For him to nail the last 15 games in the Sweet Sixteen, he had odds of one in 32, 786. 

So, maybe we will have to resign to the fact that we might never see anyone get the perfect NCAA Tournament bracket. This March, millions are going to scrutinize the starts and the seedings, only to get disappointed when their baskets are busted on the very first day. But, it only takes one, and that one could be you!