It’s Selection Sunday. Later this evening, ESPN will host a two-hour special to announce the seedings for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and immediately after, fans of varying degrees will begin the science that is predicting a perfect bracket.
But DePaul University mathematics professor Jeff Bergen said, “It would be more likely for Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry to hit 414 free throws in a row than it would be to pick a perfect bracket by guessing. “The current NBA record is 97 free throws in a row,” he added.
In non-basketball terms, Bergen said, “It would also be easier to win the Mega Millions lottery two times in a row, buying one ticket both times, than it would be to get a perfect bracket.”
Some other things Bergen said are more likely than guessing a perfect bracket:
Tom Brady completing 96 passes in a row. (NFL record is 25.)
Babe Ruth hitting home runs in 17 consecutive at bats. (MLB record is 4.)
Nolan Ryan striking out 31 batters in a row. (MLB record is 10.)
Your favorite football team winning the next 13 Super Bowls.
Basically, he said,“It’s essentially impossible to guess a perfect bracket, but that’s no reason not to have fun with it,” Bergen said.
He did say that avid basketball fans have a shot (even though anecdotal history suggests it’s always the folks who have never watched a full game in their lives who beat out all of the bracketologists every year).
“Suppose you know that a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed in the men’s tournament. That would help improve your odds. With additional knowledge of basketball and the history of the tournament, the odds of picking a perfect bracket would be approximately one in 128 billion,” he said.
Nevertheless, Bergen said there’s still value in playing the odds.
“People still play to beat their friends or win their office pool,” he said. “Just remember to enjoy yourself.”