Buffett’s billion-dollar NCAA bracket: We all lost

The last few holdouts in the Quicken Loans bracket contest saw their billion-dollar dreams crumble Friday night.

The competition, put on by Quicken Loans and Yahoo Sports and backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), would have given away $1 billion to any contestant who correctly predicted every winner in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The odds of that happening were never good — about 9.2 quintillion to one. But a few big upsets knocked out most brackets surprisingly early. After Dayton beat Ohio State and Mercer beat Duke, 99% of all entries were out of the running.

By the time Stanford bested New Mexico Friday afternoon, only 16 brackets remained perfect. One game later, after Arizona beat Weber, there were just six brackets left, according to unofficial tallies on the Yahoo Sports website. The number dwindled to three when Gonzaga prevailed over Oklahoma State. The few left standing: Letisha’s Swag Bracket, eric hjermstad’s Bracket, and Michelle’s Awesome Bracket.

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But those proud survivors had all picked George Washington to win against Memphis. Memphis defeated GW by five points.

And just like that, by the end of the round of 64, Quicken Loans’ billion-dollar contest was over. Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway insured Quicken Loans against the losses of a potential payout, is now officially off the hook — not to mention some $10 million richer after the insurance bill.

As for the rest of us, we’re not all losers. Twenty contestants who entered the bracket competition will bring home $100,000 each. And Quicken Loans will donate $1 million to programs for inner-city children.

Those hoping for the billion-dollar payout will have to wait until next year. Or maybe just do what Buffett and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert did — spend decades building strong businesses based on prescient vision and keen business acumen. You still might not make a billion, but your odds are a lot better.

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