2014 F4/Champ

A model for picking your 2014 Final Four and champion

Bracket picking time is just a few days away, and at this moment, everyone’s bracket is perfect. But the odds are that fewer than 10% of tourney pool players will still be able to say that after just the infamous “First Four” games.

For those elite 10-percenters, the theoretical odds of filling out the rest of the bracket perfectly are about nine quintillion to one—more specifically, one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, or two to the 63rd power. Of course, these are just the theoretical odds of picking a perfect bracket. We all know that 16 seeds are virtually assured of losing out of the gate, 15 seeds are 95% likely to lose, and 13 and 14 seeds are longshots to win as well. Still, if you wanted to be absolutely sure you achieved bracket perfection—remember: three 15 seeds have sprung upsets in the last two years—you would have to fill out all those nine quintillion brackets.

I’ve described this before, but it bears repeating: nine quintillion is a large number. According to various sources, there are 134,548 schools in America, from pre-K through college, both public and private. Let’s say that they all had a standard 94x50-foot college-sized basketball court (a stretch, I know). Let’s assume further that you had the time, gas mileage and payload capacity to cart all these brackets to each school and evenly paper their courts. Every school would get 69 trillion brackets and could cover their courts 9.4 billion times. That would create stacks all around the country 591 miles high. That’s the distance from St. Louis to New Orleans…or, for you West Coast fans, the distance between San Francisco and San Diego.

Bottom line: you’re not going to fill out a perfect bracket...so stop dreaming about that QuickenLoans billion dollar prize. If you’re like me, though, you’ll happily take solace in winning your pool. In this case, the challenge is a tad easier. Depending on the number of people you’re up against and your round-by-round scoring method, you’ll need to make somewhere between 48 and 54 correct picks out of the 63 tourney games to come out on top. This works out to a more manageable 76-85% accuracy rate.