Modern-Day Sisyphus – The Perfect March Madness Bracket
Trying to get the perfect March Madness Bracket is the modern day equivalent of the Myth of Sisyphus. Each year we start the process of rolling the boulder up the hill, only to see it careen back to the bottom a few days later. Now that we’re headfirst into week two of March Madness, everyone’s bracket is bruised and busted. This tournament so far has been especially excruciating if you have picked one of the powerhouses to go all the way such as Michigan State, West Virginia, Texas, or Duke.
Yet filling out a bracket year after year, getting all of my picks correct still feels attainable. It doesn’t feel like it’s dumb luck such as winning the lottery. There’s research behind this, tips you can search for, injury information that is up to the minute. But in spite of this information, there has never been a perfect bracket since the field expanded to 64 teams. In fact it has never been close. This year, it only took 26 games (out of 63) for the 50 million people participating to have at least one wrong pick. To put that into perspective, the 26th game occurred last Friday at about 2pm, which is the second day of the tournament.
QuestionPro had conducted a survey March 13-15 on March Madness. This was to get a better understanding of the level of participation in March Madness. We will reveal more answers next week, but there was one question where the results were eye opening. We asked an audience of 300, “Do you think you’ll have the perfect bracket this year?” Almost 42% percent of the survey answered yes to the question. I’d assume people who say “yes” to the question, “Do you think you’ll win the upcoming lottery?” will be far less than 42%. But the chance of winning the lottery is far more likely. In fact, you still have a significantly better chance if you were to parlay your bets to having the winning tickets in two lotteries. So what is the chance of having a perfect bracket? If you have a 50/50 chance on each game, you will have a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of achieving the perfect bracket. Here are some more things that have better odds.
The numbers stacked against are so hard to begin to comprehend, and yet filling out a bracket is so easy and accessible. This likely contributes to the popularity of the tournament. This year, about 50 million people will fill out a March Madness bracket. If this number holds up, then you can expect to see a perfect bracket in one-hundred and eighty-four billion years. Or if you like 13x the age of our universe. And year after year we start to roll the boulder up the hill again, expecting a different outcome.
Take a look at our Week 1: Ball Don’t Lie Infographic. This is based on our survey Results March 13-15.