America is in the midst of a three-week-long sports bacchanalia: March Madness, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s annual college basketball tournament.
A frenzy of activity, the elimination competition starts with 64 teams and ends with one. It has always been the object of sports enthusiasts’ interest to predict which teams will advance past each round of the tournament. A substantial portion of the entertainment that comes from March Madness is linked to homemade brackets made by fans with predictions of how the tournament will play out.
Beckman High School freshman and avid sports fan Eric Lindberg commented, “March Madness is all about brackets — how close you were and seeing whether the teams you picked to fall off at a certain point actually do is the most fun.”
And because of a collaboration between Quicken Loans and billionaire Warren Buffett, the number of people filling out brackets was higher this year than ever before. Buffett insured a billion dollar offer for anyone who filled out a perfect bracket correctly predicting the winner of all the 63 games.
But what most people do not know about the bracket offer is how hard it actually is to predict a perfect bracket.
“People realize it’s a long shot,” said Jeff Bergen, a mathematician at DePaul University before the tournament began. “They don’t realize how long.”
Beckman senior John Shin can attest to the difficulty of creating a perfect bracket.
“I failed the Buffett challenge,” said Shin when asked by JSR. “Dayton came out of nowhere with two huge upsets and the favorites Wichita State and Kansas are both out of the tournament. This just goes to show that anything can happen in this tournament.”
Shin was not alone. In fact, no one had a perfect bracket by 25 games into the tournament — before the end of the first round. To ESPN’s Dan Patrick, Buffett said, “I would have preferred to see it go quite a bit longer.”
According to Bergen, the odds of someone filling out a perfect bracket are one in nine quintillion.