With March Madness play-in games beginning Tuesday night — starting with Liberty University and North Carolina AT&T — you may be wondering: What are my chances of predicting a perfect bracket? (As in, predicting which teams will lose and win in each of the tournament's 64 games, and finishing even better than all those geeky predictions.) This concern is so widely shared that a professor at DePaul University filmed a television segment for a Chicago-area CBS affiliate, in which he revealed the answer: 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Yes, really: you have a 1 in 9,200,000,000,000,000,000 chance of predicting a perfect bracket. So, good luck nailing down your picks before the rest of the field takes the court Thursday!
Of course, that's if you're an average human being. If you know basketball pretty well — or live in Murray Hill, probably — you stand a significantly better chance of picking the perfect bracket: 1 in 128,000,000,000 (128 billion). Which is good to know, especially for those of you tempted to enter your office's March Madness pool. It's not so much luck as, well, the breadth of your knowledge about basketball. Case in point: star election analyst Nate Silver, who (using his signature Monte Carlo simulation) argues that the University of Louisville has the best chance of taking the trophy.
We're not math wizards, so we'll hold off on speculating ourselves. (Although we have put together the picks from Silver and Vegas and a couple others into a handy super-bracket.) In the meantime, you can watch that professor explain how he obtained the 9,200,000,000,000,000,000 figure: