Only During March Madness

Incredibly Slim Odds of a Perfect Bracket in the NCAA Tournament


Patrick Moore, Staff Writer

Like millions of other basketball fans this year, I filled out a March Madness bracket for the 2022 NCAA Basketball Tournament. After second guessing my choices for hours upon hours, I believed that this year would be the year. After 11 seeded Michigan upset 6 seeded Colorado State in the first game of the tournament, I considered myself a genius. Boy, was I wrong. One by one, upsets occurred; my perfect bracket was destroyed. Upsets of perennial powers Iowa, Kentucky and UConn by Richmond, St Peter’s, and New Mexico State crushed my bracket and my hopes. While I did not have great luck in the first two rounds, others have found success, despite incredibly low odds. 

According to the NCAA official website, the odds of a perfect bracket are “1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (if you just guess or flip a coin) 1 in 120.2 billion (if you know a little something about basketball).” For someone like myself, a casual but knowledgeable person about college basketball, a 1 in 120 billion chance seems insane. For context on how low the odds of a perfect bracket are, a person has a 1 in 500,000 chance of being struck by lightning at some point in their lives, making a perfect bracket significantly less likely to occur. March Madness brackets have very low odds of success because of the sheer number of games (67), with games in the higher rounds being conditional on defeating teams in the lower rounds. With just one unforeseen upset occurring, a bracket can be instantly ruined. The most successful bracket in March Madness history occurred in 2019, as Gregg Nigl correctly predicted the first 49 games of the 2019 tournament. Nigl’s odds of success, according to, were so low in fact that  “the odds of correctly picking 49 straight games, as Nigl did, are one in 562 trillion.” Nigl, however, only predicted one of the final teams, but his success in the earlier rounds have been unmatched. 

Ultimately, the odds of a perfect bracket by either myself, or of anyone, is slim to none. However, with luck and a lot of basketball knowledge, one may be able to correctly predict 50 games and defeat Gregg Nigl’s record.