March Madness: There’s less than a 1% chance your bracket hasn’t been busted already

March 17, 2023, 2:30 PM UTC
Princeton's victory over Arizona busted a lot of brackets.
Thearon W. Henderson—Getty Images

You’re hardly the only person whose March Madness bracket is in shambles this morning. Thursday’s victory by Princeton has lowered the number of perfect brackets to less than 1%—way less. According to the NCAA, just 0.065% of all brackets are still perfect after the Ivy League’s surprise victory over No. 2–seeded Arizona (the team President Joe Biden picked to win it all).

Princeton had been ranked No. 15 before the tournament began. The Tigers battled the Arizona Wildcats to a one-point game at the half, but in the second half, Arizona took a commanding 10-point lead and looked set to wrap things up. Princeton, though, went 9-0, leading to a final score of 59-55.

Perfect brackets are rare, of course. They’re so rare, in fact, that in 2014 Warren Buffett famously offered up a $1 billion prize to the person who picked a flawless one. In the end, no one collected on those 40 annual payments of $25 million.

(Buffett has continued to run a contest at Berkshire Hathaway, offering $1 million or more to employees who pick a perfect bracket through the Sweet 16.)

The NCAA underscores just how rare this feat is on its website, noting that the odds of someone getting everything right stand at 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

If you know basketball, they drop to 1 in 120.2 billion.

To wrap your head around 9.2 quintillion (a quintillion is a billion billions), the NCAA offers some guidance.

  • Since the Big Bang, there have been about 5 trillion days. We’d need to repeat the history of our universe 1.8 million times to hit that number.
  • To equal that many inches, you’d have to walk around the planet 5.8 billion times.
  • There are an estimated 3 trillion trees on earth. If you were tasked with finding a single acorn in just one of those trees, your odds of finding it on the first guess would be 3 million times greater than those of picking a perfect bracket.
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