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March Madness: ruining your bracket since 1939

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Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:00 am

Warren Buffett made an outrageous statement this year that drew even more interest to the already popular NCAA Tournament. The fourth richest man in America announced last month that he would give $1 billion to anyone who could predict a perfect bracket.

While it seems completely asinine to hear that someone would just give away that much money, it’s safe to assume that Buffett was never worried about having to actually follow through with his promise. The results from this year’s tournament support that notion.

The odds of picking a perfect bracket are as high as 1 in 9.2 quintillion, depending on which mathematician you listen to. The mere thought of a perfect bracket has long inspired bracket challenges on the internet, in which people register on a website and submit one or more brackets. The reality of a perfect bracket, however, has always been an insurmountable goal.

This year’s tournament only confirmed how difficult it is to guess every game correctly. Nine upsets happened in the first two rounds, two of which were inconceivable. How many people predicted Mercer would upset tournament-sweetheart Duke? The same can be said for North Dakota State, who appeared in its first-ever NCAA Tournament game and upset Oklahoma.

However, the biggest story of this year’s March Madness was the pairing for the national title game. It was played between No. 7 Connecticut, better known as UConn, and No. 8 Kentucky, the highest-combined seeding ever in a championship game.

UConn barreled its way through the East region, defeating three of the top four seeds en route to its first Final Four appearance since 2011 when it defeated Butler in the national title game. The Huskies then defeated No. 1 Florida in the Final Four to complete their sweep of the top-seeded teams.

As for Kentucky, who could have seen that one happening? The Wildcats were the preseason No. 1 and an early favorite to win the national title, but being placed as the No. 8 seed in the top-heavy Midwest region put them on a difficult road against some of college basketball’s elite.

Wichita State, defending national champion Louisville, Duke and Michigan were favored as the teams who would have it out in the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight. Duke suffered a first-round exit against Mercer. Kentucky showed Wichita State that its 35-0 record was by no means intimidating. The Wildcats then slipped past both Louisville and Michigan to meet Wisconsin in the Final Four.

UConn defeated Kentucky in a mediocre championship game. The Huskies built a huge lead in the first half, only to let Kentucky come back. Both teams played poorly in the second half, but UConn was able to keep separation between itself and the Wildcats to secure its fourth title in 15 years.

It’s hard to believe that accurately predicting basketball games is the most unlikely event in the world today. The chances of being struck by lightning (one in 700,000), being killed by a vending machine (one in 112 million) and winning the Powerball (one in 175 million) are more likely to happen.

Of course, these odds won’t discourage those of us who like to fill out our brackets every year. We will continue to make our picks with the utmost confidence that each one is correct. Here’s to all of us who share a common goal: the pursuit of predicting perfection.

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