It's such a bummer — we were feeling pretty good about our bracket. Last season, Warren Buffet's company Berkshire-Hathaway joined forces with Yahoo to offer a free to enter bracket contest with a $1 billion grand prize awarded to anyone who submitted a perfect NCAA Tournament Bracket. That's billion. With a b.
No one won the prize last season. Actually, no one even made it through the Round of 64 with their bracket unblemished. According to a report by CNN Money's Ben Rooney, the biggest prize ever offered will not be offered once again this year thanks to some, "nu-uh, it was my idea!" -ing by legal representatives of the companies involved. From the CNN Money report:
The squabbling started last year when a small sweepstakes company called SCA Promotions sued Yahoo for allegedly backing out of a deal to put on the perfect bracket contest.
Yahoo counter sued, alleging that SCA spilled the beans when it went to Berkshire to buy insurance that would pay $1 billion in the unlikely event that someone won the contest.
In February, Yahoo sent subpoenas to Berkshire seeking information about its dealings with SCA, including all communication between Buffett and SCA about the contest, according to court documents.
Berkshire responded by asking a judge to quash the subpoenas, which it called "overboard" and "unduly burdensome."
It's really too bad, but anyone who was planning their April budget based on an assumed billion-dollar windfall probably would have ended up disappointed anyway. There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 ways to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. I’ll save you from counting commas — that’s 9.2 quintillion. Each of the sixty-three games have two possible outcomes, and each different outcome creates its own alternate bracket. So, 2^63. Nine point two quintillion.
For perspective, scientists at the University of Hawaii estimate that there are around 7.5 quintillion grains of sand on planet earth. If you filled out your bracket randomly, by flipping a coin to choose the winner of each game, the odds of your bracket surviving to April 6 without a blemish worse than the odds of you choosing a particular grain of sand from all the beaches on earth.
You’re more than 20 times more likely to get struck by lightning three times in the next year than you are to randomly pick a perfect bracket. (The odds of getting struck by lightning in a given year are 1/750,000, per the National Weather Service. The odds of it happening three times are 1/(750,000^3).)
You’re more than 200 times more likely to win the Mega-Millions and the Powerball, than you are to randomly pick a perfect bracket. (The odds of winning the Mega-Millions are 1/258,890,850. The odds of winning the Powerball are 1/175,223,510. The odds of winning both are 1/(258,890,850×175,223,510).)
But you wouldn’t do it randomly, would you? Of course not. You’re a basketball fan! You’re gonna pick the games yourself because you’ve watched the games and you know "the rules." Like how no 16-seed has ever upset a 1-seed, only seven 15-seeds have ever taken down 2-seeds, and there’s been at least one 12-5 upset in 23 of the last 25 Tournaments. Knowing all that has to improve your odds, right?
According to DePaul University math professor Jeff Bergen, the odds of someone with basketball knowledge filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 128 billion . . . So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance! One in 128,000,000 is wayyy more manageable. Better odds than Powerball, Mega Millions, or two lightning strikes! Still not great though.
Bergen puts it in perspective, “if you have a favorite baseball team, they are more likely to win the next seven consecutive World Series than you are — with knowledge of basketball — to get a perfect bracket,” Yikes. That’s rough. But Joe DiMaggio’s Yankees won five straight from 1949-1953! They could have won a couple more right? Bergen went on, “If you sat down today and tried to predict the winning party in every presidential election through 2160, getting that correct is more likely than getting a perfect bracket. If you sat down now with fair coin and flipped it, you're more likely get 37 heads in a row than you are to get a perfect bracket.”
So even though the Billion Dollar Bracket challenge is dead, your odds of winning a billion really haven't changed all that much.