The impossible perfect March Madness bracket: Why a busted bracket is basically inevitable
If you're reading this, chances are your bracket is already busted.
Let's just say you did everything "right." You followed each team in the off season, tracking their prospects. You watched games consistently as soon as the college basketball season kicked off in early November, eyeing squads with solid defense, strong point guards and unbeatable team chemistry. You glued yourself to the TV screen on Selection Sunday, took notes during Bill Simmons' podcast and watched ESPN's 24-hour coverage.
Then, down to the wire, you submitted the bracket. The one, you tell yourself, that will undoubtedly be perfect this year.
Even then, the odds are insurmountably against you.
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As Walt Hickey wrote for FiveThirtyEight in 2016, "With 63 games and 2 possible selections for each one, that's 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible combinations. Your bracket is one of these, and the perfect bracket is one of these, but it is highly unlikely that they are the same bracket."
For context, Hickey explains, that's the equivalent of having one grain of sand for every possible bracket combination -- and having to sort through several trillion pounds of sand.
According to Yahoo Sports, nearly 94 percent of Yahoo Sports brackets were busted a mere five hours into 20a6's NCAA tournament. By the end of the night, that imperfect bracket number was 99.999 percent.
This year, the NCAA says more than 99 percent of all brackets on the major online games were busted by the end of the First Round, but there are reportedly still more than 100,000 that have remained perfect. According to ESPN, the percentage of perfect brackets on their own site dropped to 3.5 percent after Xavier's upset win over Maryland.
Perhaps you lost bragging rights around the water cooler at work, or have to suffer a lot of trash talk for your now self-proclaimed idiotic pick of Minnesota over Middle Tennessee. At the end of the day, though, consider the odds, and it really isn't all that bad.
Besides, there's always next year.
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