Picking a Perfect Bracket? Getting Eaten By a Shark is 15,000 Times Likelier



March Madness will soon be here and with it, some of the best days on the entire sporting calendar. How could anyone argue against the idea that the first two main days of the NCAA Tournament, when the field halves from 64 to 32, are as good as it gets when it comes to watching live sports?

You have action going strong for 12 hours plus, on back to back days, and with so many college basketball games going on all at the same time, if one’s a clunker, simply tune into a different one. Having all these options, it’s only natural that bracket betting took off.

shark hunting

This time of year, almost everybody you know has a bracket, which means they all have a rooting interest. And as a lot of people will love to tell you, their bracket gets busted early. To them, it’s news, but there’s nothing unique about it.

The odds of picking the first round perfectly are about 17,000 to 1. The chances of randomly picking all 63 games in the bracket are, wait for it, 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s 9.2 quintillion. This is if you go with a totally random approach.

If there is some kind of method to your madness, well, the NCAA, using data from its Bracket Challenge Game, says there is a one in 120.2 billion chance of getting it perfect. If you’re wondering how high numbers can actually go, well Google, the omnipresent search engine, derived its name from the number 10100.


That number is referred to as a googol, named by Milton Sirotta, the nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner.

The founders of Google aimed “to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.” A number with a hundred zeros behind it seems hard to envision, as a quintillion is huge enough, and it has “only” 18 digits.

As for 120,000,000,000 to one, the odds that you’ll pick a perfect bracket next week, well you’re actually 140,000 times more likely to become a billionaire and 120,000 times more likely to get struck by lightning. You’re also 15,000 times more likely to get eaten by a shark.

march madness

Yes, “Jaws” may be a timeless film franchise, but everything about it is much more far-fetched than one could even conceive. Shark attacks always get a ton of headlines, due to their sensational nature, but they’re extremely rare as the odds of dying at the hands of a shark are 1 in 8,000,000.

Speaking of rarities, you might ask yourself, how close has anyone ever come to getting a perfect bracket? There are no confirmed instances.

However, a guy named Gregg Nigl, in the last tournament that was staged (2019) got the first 49 picks right.

carsen edwards

The first selection he missed on was the sweet 16 matchup between #3 seed Purdue and #2 seed Tennessee.

Carsen Edwards and the rest of the underdog Boilermakers outlasted the Vols in overtime 99-94, in one of the most entertaining games in recent memory. Could someone come even closer to getting a perfect bracket this year? Stranger things have happened.

The past year was so unique and bizarre that when the Pentagon pretty much confirmed the existence of UFOs back in August, it was a story that lasted maybe half a day in the news cycle.


We’ll probably see an interstellar war before someone ever picks a perfect bracket.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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