In a year without Kentucky dancing, it may have been difficult playing in your March office pool. Not being able to do a “serious bracket” and a “fun bracket” where you have all the upsets and Kentucky winning it all no matter what. It’s a dark time. But the night is always darkest before the dawn.
The strategies for selecting winners vary from the hard-nosed number cruncher, to the gut-feelers, to the draw-a-name-out-of-the-hat pickers. Whatever your method, it doesn’t take much for a bracket to go from beautiful green highlights to strokes of red like a murder scene. When it gets to that point — and we all get to that point — it doesn’t matter how you picked ‘em. You’re busted and your bracket is in the trash.
Just how bad did things get this year? Out of ESPN’s 8.15 million brackets nobody got all the Sweet Sixteen teams correct. Only four got closest, picking 15 of 16 teams correctly. And the usual suspect of Florida Gulf Coat hasn’t always been the team to shred the streak of perfection. Wichita State and La Salle are a couple of others that went unpredicted by the current leaders.
Believe it or not, on the other side, more than 1,000 unfortunate souls went 0-for-16 after the round of 32. Somehow, there are people with worse prognostication skills than you.
Florida Gulf Coast, however, remains the biggest surprise as the Eagles became the first 15-seed ever to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Just 0.95 percent of brackets picked FGCU to advance that far. And a little more than 2,000 (fans and alumni, obviously) have them winning it all. Only 0.3 percent of brackets accurately predicted a Florida versus Gulf Coast matchup. Another 0.2 percent had all three Sunshine State teams, Florida, Gulf Coast, and Miami in the Sweet Sixteen.
In the West — the region which royally screwed everybody — just 966 brackets had all four teams, Ohio State, Arizona, Wichita State, and La Salle, reaching the second weekend.
The East region, which turned out to be all chalk, was correctly picked by 35.5 percent of entries. As a comparison to just how uncomfortable America is with Cinderella’s, the Midwest region which went 1-2-3-12 was correctly picked by just 9.8 percent of entries.
An all-chalk bracket would have 11 of the 16 Sweet Sixteen teams intact, and be sitting in the 90th percentile.
Not too shabby when you consider you have a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of filling out a perfect bracket. That’s 1 billion 9.2 billion times. Cashing in on a Mega Millions jackpot is about 50 billion times easier to win than that. And you’re just about as likely to win it three consecutive times with three different tickets.
How feasible is finding a perfect bracket? It wouldn’t fit inside the universe. If every person on the planet filled out one bracket per second it would take over 688 years to complete all possible combinations. And that stack of paper would reach from the earth to the moon and back 17.6 million times.
Of course, we all know a little bit about basketball, like how a 16-seed over a 1-seed isn’t likely to happen. So factoring in some gimme games you increase your odds of a perfect bracket to 1 in 128 billion.
The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 10,000.
Frightening, huh? That’s because March Madness gives and March Madness takes. We get to see some incredible moments and jaw-dropping upsets, at the expense of our sanity and own self-worth. Moments that will last a lifetime… Just ask any Kentucky fan last season. And maybe ask them again this time next season. There are monumental ups and rock-bottom downs. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way.