Insane in the brain! Yes, it is that time of year when millions of sports fans start filling out their March Madness bracket for the 2023 NCAA Men’s Division Championship. While everyone thinks they can have a perfect NCAA tournament bracket, you might wonder if it is achievable.
Below we will explore the crazy odds for perfect brackets and why NO ONE has ever had a 100% winning bracket. So, print out your 2023 NCAA Bracket, get your pencils or spreadsheets, and we will do some math!
How Fans Usually Score Brackets
To score a perfect NCAA bracket, the odds are:
- 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (for a general guess or by flipping a coin)
- 1 in 120.2 billion (if you pick your favorite teams and win)
Now, that 120.2 billion number looks more achievable because fans usually pick their favorite teams, check IRs, and read team data. They are also likely picking the top-seed teams that make it to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four.
The problem with accurately guessing an entire match is not including injuries, game upsets, or Cinderella stories. Fans can also benefit from checking the odds in different sportsbooks, activating rebate offers, signing up for casino bonus cash, and betting with cryptocurrencies (for the max cash to wager with).
If all your teams do well and there are no sudden sweeps from an underdog, then you might have a 50-50 chance of winning every game or slightly higher based on your yearly predictions. It varies because of the number of bracket permutations in a tournament.
So, to calculate this, we start by filling out a bracket with every possible outcome. As you fill in the NCAA tournament, you will make your picks based on a single elimination with each game until you reach the final two and your winner.
In our example, we used only four teams (A, B, C, D) to help you understand how the odds can change and why games are so unpredictable.
From 8 to 128
If we fill out four columns for our imaginary bracket, we have eight bracket permutations, and in that field of four, it is easy to set up. However, if we now change it to eight, then our permutations change to 128.
Picking brackets shifts because we go from four teams to eight, but as we go from eight permutations to 128. Hence, the numbers increase exponentially. We do not even need to fill out all 128 brackets. Instead, we use their exponents.
Take the number of potential outcomes for each game which is two, and raise it by a power based on the number of tournament games. In this example, that would be 2^3, for a total of 8, while for the second, it would be 2^7, for a total of 128.
Next, we apply that to our NCAA tournament bracket.
The 63 Teams
Since 2011, the NCAA has had 68 teams compete, with eight teams for the final four matchups. At this stage, fans start looking up March Madness betting tips, reading IR reports and team news, and picking their favorite teams.
Four games occur before the first round, but fans need to remember that there are 64 teams. Hence, we have 63 games in a typical NCAA tournament bracket.
Given that we are now working with 63 teams, it changes the potential bracket outcomes to 2^63, or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, or 9.2 quintillion, which is one billion billion.
Going back to our coin toss for our predictions, we can use the same math so the odds of using a coin flip for our 63 games would come out to 1 in 9.2 quintillions.
While inaccurate, it is easy to quantify and do the math. And it is easier to see how hard it is to have a perfect bracket.
One in 120.2 Billion
With our bracket picks, the odds of a perfect bracket are so unachievable; no wonder no one has ever had a perfect one, although they might try to use software to help.
Factor in that with the 32 first-round games from the past few years or 160 games for the average user, and we would see that a five versus 12 game would have a seed differential of 7.
With about 222 games having a seed differential of 7 in the tournament, the average player accuracy is 66.7%. However, the odds are still crazy as they would come out to 667^63 = 0.00000000000831625.
Hence, that is one in 120.2 billion or 70 million times better than a coin toss!
March Madness is about to start, and brackets are so enticing. While perfect picks are hard to achieve, see how far you can get with your favorite teams and have a separate bracket for coin toss picks (to make it fun). With a month of games, keep in mind that 49.8% of fans had correct games in their brackets, which sounds like better odds!