NCAA tournament: The science of 'bracketology'

KUSA - The NCAA tournament officially tips off on Thursday. No one in recorded history has ever filled out a "perfect" bracket.

"People realize it's a long shot,'' says Jeff Bergen, a mathematician at DePaul University in Chicago. "They don't realize how long.''

The search for the perfect NCAA men's bracket has been long and futile.

ESPN has been running a contest since 1998, and none of the more than 30 million submissions has come close to perfection. Over the past three years, every entry (participants can file more than one) had missed at least one game by the end of the first round of 32 games.

According to the American Gaming Association, 70 million brackets will be filled out during the tournament in 2015. Americans will bet $2 billion through brackets, and the amount wagered on the tournament is expected to reach $9 billion.

Don't be totally discouraged by those long odds. With a modicum of knowledge, you can improve them.

For instance, a No. 1 (highest) seed has never lost to a No. 16 (lowest) seed in any of the four regional tournaments into which the big one is divided since 1985.

That means you'd still have less chance of filling out a perfect bracket than of:

  • Seeing your favorite team win the next seven World Series
  • Predicting which political party will win the presidency in every election from 2016 through 2160 (assuming the winner is always a Republican or a Democrat)
  • Flipping a coin and getting heads 37 times in a row
  • Becoming an NBA player

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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