Every March, 68 of the best college basketball teams in the country compete in the NCAA tournament, commonly known as March Madness. It’s not just basketball fans who pay attention; everyone enjoys filling out a bracket to test their luck. It’s quick and you don’t need to know much about the sport to do well because of the upsets that happen every year.
Millions of people do March Madness brackets every year, but it’s nearly impossible to predict a perfect one. Here are the odds of pulling it off perfectly throughout the tournament.
The insane odds of picking a perfect March Madness bracket
Not counting the First Four contests, 63 games take place during the tournament, so picking them all is a nearly impossible challenge. If you randomly picked a winner of each contest, you’d have a one-in-9,223,372,036,854,775,808 quintillion chance to get every pick right.
Even if you know something about basketball, your odds of crafting a perfect bracket are still around one in 120.2 billion, using an average pick accuracy of 66.7%. The more you know about the teams, the better your odds will be. But even basketball experts have an infinitesimally small chance of correctly picking all of the games.
It’s so unlikely that someone will pick a perfect bracket that billionaires and companies have offered ridiculous prizes to anyone who does. Last year, reports Forbes, Warren Buffett offered $1 million per year for life to anyone at his company Berkshire Hathaway who picked the Sweet 16 correctly — that’s not even every game.
Teams with the best odds to win March Madness
If you want to win your bracket pool, it doesn’t hurt to pick favorites to make deep runs in the tournament. As we enter the home stretch of the regular season, the teams with the best Vegas odds to win March Madness are Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Duke.
Kansas and Duke are two of the best college basketball programs historically. Gonzaga has been a big-name school in the sport for a lot of the 21st century. Baylor has come on as a basketball powerhouse in recent years.
Other teams with strong March Madness track records near the top of the oddsmakers’ lists include Louiseville, Kentucky, Maryland, and Michigan State. (Although as you get down to Michigan State in 10th place the odds start to get much longer.)
March Madness strategies for casual fans
If you’re a casual fan who likes to enter your office’s March Madness pool, here are some strategies and tips that could improve your chances of winning:
Enter multiple brackets
Many pools allow people to submit multiple brackets. This gives you a better chance of doing well in the tournament. You can pick different teams to make deep runs and win the tournament, increasing the odds that you’ll pick the winner.
Pick a 12-seed to win in Round 1
There are always upsets in the tournament, especially in the first round. Perhaps the most common upset early in March Madness is a 12-seed defeating a 5-seed. While it doesn’t happen every year, it does happen frequently enough that many people pick at least one 12-seed to win a game.
Don’t pick all 1-seeds in the Final Four
While it might be tempting for casual fans to pick all four of the top seeds to make it to the Final Four, you should avoid doing that. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, all four No. 1 seeds have made it to the final weekend just once.
Having no 1-seeds in the Final Four is more common, with two instances of this happening over the years. The most common occurrence is having just one of the four top seeds make it to the Final Four. This has happened 15 out of 35 years since the tournament went to 64-plus teams.
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