Want to win a million dollars a year for life? Simple! Just fill out a perfect March Madness bracket. The odds of getting a perfect bracket are so astronomically high that last year billionaire Warren Buffet offered $1 million dollars a year for life to any Berkshire Hathaway employee who managed to fill out a perfect bracket. How high is astronomically high? You have better odds playing the lottery. The odds of winning either the Mega Millions or PowerBall drawings are roughly 1 in 300 million.
Why are the odds so high? There are 64 teams that play 63 games: 32 in the first round, 16 in the second, 8 in the third, 4 in the regional championships, 2 in the Final Four, and then finally the championship game. The basic back-of-the-envelope calculation is 2^63 = 9.2 x 10^18, or roughly odds of 1 in 9 quintillion. Slightly better odds have been calculated when taking into account seeding and other factors, leaving you with a chance of filling out a perfect March Madness bracket (depending on the method used for calculation) somewhere between 1 in 128 billion and 1 in 2.4 trillion.
Still not daunted and want to maximize your chance of winning your local bracket pool? Then you need to delve into the realm of bracketology. While you can use various home-grown methods—ranking by jersey colors, gut feelings, picking out of a hat—bracketologists use a host of information to help predict who will win. 538’s March Madness predictor takes into account several factors for each team that can influence bracket choices such as preseason ratings, player injuries and how much a team travels. CNN offers a mini course in bracketology by relying on historic trends such as “It’s inevitable that a No. 12, 13 or 14 seed will win in the first two days.” You can also read up on current and historical methods of bracket prediction by reading one of the 17,000 papers available on Google Scholar covering March Madness and presenting different statistical methods, such as BOSS, to predict the winner of the tournament. And if all of that seems overwhelming, never fear, Bracketodds, a bracket builder from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign can fill out your bracket for you.