I know Manchester United and Liverpool have never met in European competition during their many decades of football relevance and while that statistic is hard to believe, there is another one that sports fans from across the pond have been wrestling with since 1939.
Not one single person — and millions try every year — has ever picked a perfect March Madness bracket for the annual NCAA college men’s basketball tournament.
That’s right. Over 70 years of the tournament. Not a single perfect bracket.
None. Zilch. Zero.
I know what you’re thinking: Why do Americans care so much about this tournament?
The simple answer is because unlike other multi-team competitions on a football pitch, or inside a cricket stadium or around a Formula One track, this particular tournament is absolutely unpredictable. I’m not saying it is easy to make a correct call, with certainty, on who will win the English Premier League or who will win the World Twenty 20. It’s not.
But throw 64 of America’s best college basketball teams into a tournament and try to predict who will still be standing when the dust clears. Sure, you may be able to choose the actual winner. But correctly picking their path to the title, along with how each of the other games played out is such a mind-bending task that it seems impossible.
That’s because it is nearly impossible.
But before I drop some head-shaking statistics on you, let’s look back at last year’s tournament and how close the headstrong, elite basketball savants came to picking a perfect bracket.
In this ESPN report, the sole entrant in their bracket pool with a perfect bracket through the round of 64 — which is just the first round of games — finally absorbed some red ink on his bracket when the 26-year-old sign language interpreter from Cleveland picked his favourite team, Ohio State, to beat Arizona. The Wildcats bested the Buckeyes, 73-58.
After the first two days of the tournament, Malachi, who asked to keep his last name anonymous out of privacy concerns, had the only one out of 11.57 million brackets with every team still in green.
Three games later, his perfect run was over. But Malachi shouldn’t fret. He got much further than anyone got the year before, as no entry on any of the major websites survived the round of 64.
Malachi had to be a huge basketball fan to stand alone after the first round, right? Some incredible analyst with insider knowledge or some sort. Nope.
“I actually haven’t watched a full game this entire year,” he told ESPN after checking the scores on his phone from inside a salsa bar.
Those who have achieved success over the years to beat the odds have often been the beneficiary of luck.
In 2006, only four fans out of 3 million brackets entered on ESPN.com had the Final Four perfect. One of the fans, Russell Pleasant, admitted that he picked George Mason that year because he got the school confused with George Washington.
This should encourage more people to enter your office pool this year. Picking the winners based on school colours, or the cuteness of their mascot or because you knew a guy, who dated a girl, whose father was friends with a guy who went to that school might do you better than actually trying to connect the X’s and O’s.
Just be sure to have that red pen handy. The first round of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament tips off in exactly one week but what are the chances of you actually getting a perfect bracket and correctly predicting every game in the tournament?
According to the Business Insider, the odds are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.
There is a lot of commas in that number. Good luck.
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