Only one competitor in the NCAA’s Bracket Challenge Game still has a perfect bracket going into the Sweet Sixteen round, becoming the first player to make it even that far, MSN is reporting. In the process, the user overcame odds that are literally astronomical.
At this point it bears noting that several websites host online bracket challenges each March Madness tournament, not just the NCAA itself. It’s possible, though unlikely, that one or more participants in one or more of those games still has a perfect bracket. However, as of this writing, no one is reporting such — if that is indeed the case. Similarly, it’s quite possible that some random player in some office pool somewhere still has a perfect bracket. Of course, that would be impossible to verify.
Disclaimers aside, the NCAA reports that a user submitted a bracket called “Center Road” which, through the first two rounds, has been perfect.
Mathematicians say that’s extremely impressive: under the assumption that each team has an equal chance of winning, picking the 48 winners (so far) correctly means overcoming odds of 1 in 281,474,976,710,656.
Of course, not every team has an equal chance of winning. Indeed, it’s the competitors who have the skills (or luck) to pick the winners, including upsets, that make for a winning bracket.
Many years, upsets destroy most participants’ brackets in the early rounds. This year has seen some minor upsets, but no major ones. And the user who submitted “Center Road” predicted not only all three first-round upsets (Liberty, UC Irvine, and Murray State) but also correctly predicted that all three “Cinderella” teams would lose in the second round.
If their prediction holds, this year’s Final Four will see Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga, and Kentucky battling it out, with Gonzaga taking down Kentucky for the win in the final round.
Should “Center Road” correctly guess the entire bracket, they will become the first person in history to overcome odds of 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (that’s 1 in 9.2 quintillion) to precisely predict the winners of the 63 games of the main tournament, according to Duke University‘s mathematics department. The odds are actually even higher this year — in light of the four play-in games — but Duke’s mathematics department didn’t figure in those odds.
“Center Road” still has a long way to go, mathematically speaking. They still has 15 games that need to be played, and at this point the teams are generally more evenly-matched, making predicting the winner more of a 50/50 proposition. By random chance alone, the unidentified user still has to overcome odds of 1 in 32,768 before he or she can become the first person to ever pick a perfect NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament bracket.