Analyzing the First Weekend of the Bracket


Wow.  Every single year, March Madness seems to live up to the hype.  I’ve tried to convince myself that the quality of basketball has lowered enough that it won’t be entertaining, but each year I’m proven wrong.  Big upsets, buzzer beaters, and Cinderella stories all made this a memorable start to the tournament this year.  But how predictable was it?

Using projections prior to the start of the tournament, the odds of getting just the remaining 16 teams left is 0.00008%.  That’s equivalent to 1 in 1.32 million.  And that’s ONLY the 16 remaining teams.  That doesn’t even include the remaining first round games that you also were trying to predict (like Michigan State).

Now the best way to win your tournament pool is to enter multiple brackets.  In my case, I entered ten thousand.  Not literally of course, but I recorded the simulation of the bracket ten thousand times and recorded the results.  Out of my ten thousand results, my absolute best bracket still had six blemishes.  California, Cincinnati, and Stephen F. Austin were winners that I (well technically a computer) missed in the first round.  In the second round, the incorrect picks included UConn over Kansas, Iowa over Villanova, and Kentucky over Indiana.

Every year, millions of people think they might have the bracket that they might lead to perfection.  The math says those people are wrong.  Although you might have a better chance if you enter 1.32 million brackets into your pool next year.

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