You’re more likely to be hit by a meteorite or become a professional NBA player than achieve a perfect March Madness bracket

Every year, millions of basketball fans take part in the March Madness NCAA Tournament bracket. And yet, no one has ever actually achieved a perfect score. 

Trying to master the bracket has become something of a cultural phenomenon in the basketball world, adding to the thrill of the NCAA Tournament for countless fans. But how likely are you to actually predict every game correctly?

What is March Madness?

If you’re new to March Madness, here’s a quick rundown of how it works: 

The NCAA committee chooses 68 of the best college basketball teams to play in the tournament. It works as a single-elimination format, meaning that if a team wins a game, they advance, but if they lose a game, they are automatically removed from the competition. The last team standing takes home the trophy. 

Fans can guess who they think the winners will be by filling out ‘brackets’, each of which represents a game in the tournament. 

How to fill out the bracket 

Anyone can fill out the bracket online via the NCAA’s Official Bracket Challenge, or print it off and complete it by hand. 

To help you fill out your bracket, it’s advisable to do some digging on the teams and look at the seedings so you’re well-prepared when making your decisions. 

For dedicated participants, March Madness has its own research process, dubbed March Madness Bracketology, which helps fans predict each of the tournament’s 68 games based on theories and research, while others guess purely on instinct. 

Anything can happen in this tournament, so be prepared for upsets (when a low seeded team beats a high-seeded team). Also known as ‘Cinderella winners’, these teams make the bracket a much tougher nut to crack. Underdog teams with unexpected victories can change everything with just one slam dunk. 

Just like in the 1985 championship game, when eighth-seeded Villanova triumphed over top-seeded Georgetown — an unforgettable upset in basketball history. More recently, in 2022, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks emerged as the first ever 15th-seeded team in history to reach the Elite Eight. These twists can surprise even the most hardcore fans, making nailing the predictions even tougher. 

How likely am I to predict the bracket perfectly? 

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever come close to achieving a perfect March Madness bracket. And when we say highly unlikely, we mean almost impossible. 

The probability of correctly picking all 63 games at random is a one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance. That’s 9.2 quintillion. For context, just one quintillion is a billion billions. So, unlikely is an understatement. 

But, if you have some strong college basketball knowledge, then you'll probably make more informed decisions and be more likely to score an impressive bracket. 

Take Gregg Nigl, for instance. In 2019, Nigl achieved the most successful bracket seen in NCAA history by using his college basketball fan knowledge. He came the closest anyone had come before – or since – predicting the outcome of 49 out of the 63 games before Purdue beat Tennessee, ending his streak. 

The NCAA has said there might have been a perfect bracket somewhere between 1985 to now. This is difficult to know for sure, as some brackets were recorded on paper and weren’t broadcast to the public. 

Despite Nigl’s success, in 2020 the NCAA estimated that the average player with decent knowledge has a one in 120.2 billion chance of choosing the final bracket — still unfathomable odds. So, even if you’re a seasoned expert who knows each team inside out, you’ll still have a pretty hard time reaching perfection. 

Here are some things that are more likely to happen to you than achieve the perfect bracket

Believe it or not, you’re more likely to become a professional basketball player than to win the bracket. The chances of a high school basketball player reaching the NBA are about one in 3,300. That’s still 36 million times more likely than achieving the perfect bracket. 

Another extremely improbable event that’s more likely to happen to you is to be dealt a royal flush, famously known as the rarest hand in five-card poker. That’s a one in 854,318 chance, and 185 times more likely to happen than guessing each winning bracket correctly.

You’re also more likely to be struck by lightning. The odds of this happening are one in a million, which is 12,000 times more likely than scoring the ultimate bracket.

Being hit by a meteorite has odds of around 1.6 million to one — 75,000 times more likely to happen than a perfect bracket. Winning the Lotto Max jackpot is also more probable, with a one in 33.3 million chance. That’s 3,610 times more likely than being 63 for 63 this March. 

So, it might be time to accept that no one will ever score the perfect bracket. But with March Madness 2024 approaching, it’s certainly on a lot of fans’ minds. 

The odds might be monumental, but it’s still (technically) possible. Could it be you? 

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