March Madness is upon us and we’ve already seen a few bracket-busting upsets. UAB over Iowa State. Georgia State over Baylor. These are the types of crazy upsets that no one picks unless they go/went to one of those schools or they’re just plain crazy. FiveThirtyEight actually put together simulations and odds for each game in the tournament, which gives us a nice opportunity to look at just how unlikely it is that your cousin’s wife’s co-worker’s brother-in-law totally saw all this coming.
Hint: It’s not quite one-in-a-million, but just give it another day.
Of the two biggest upsets, UAB’s win was the most unlikely (unless you consider the way in which Georgia State won) at just a 9% likelihood. Cumulatively, the round of 32 had just under a 1-in-100,000 chance of turning out like this.
Statistically, that would suggest that of the 11.6 million ESPN brackets (to say nothing of those outside of ESPN), there should be just over 100 perfect brackets. True, but people don’t make their picks by statistics, and they certainly don’t just pick randomly (well, maybe except for ol’ Grandma Fran). People play to win, so even though a team like UAB had a 9% chance of winning, only about 3.5% of users picked them in the matchup.
In fact, there’s only one perfect ESPN bracket right now (see it here), but they’ve picked Duke to win it all (7% odds currently, according to FiveThirtyEight), so unless this guy’s got a crystal ball (can’t put it past him), we’ll probably be down to zero in short order.
Warren Buffet probably would’ve been just fine doing another Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge.