March Madness and perfection


Today, the first real slate of games in the 2014 NCAA Tournament kicked off. As usual, the day was filled with upsets, overtime games, and plenty of the game’s patented “madness.”

Of course, one main reason for the mania surrounding March Madness can be described in a single word: brackets. Around the country,  millions of people compete against their friends, co-workers or family members for money and bragging rights.

This year alone, more than 11 million people entered ESPN’s “Tournament Challenge,” which grants $10,000 to the top one percent of brackets submitted. However, that prize is dwarfed by Warren Buffett’s now famous “Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge”, which as the name suggests, promises $1 billion for a perfect bracket. As expected with such a large payout, the news and sports media have relentlessly covered this possibility of perfection.

For Buffett, this is an extremely low-risk, high-reward situation. He has managed to create a huge media buzz, while there is an almost miniscule chance that he will have to actually dish out the billion. For each individual bracket, the chances of predicting all 63 games correctly is close to 1 in 9.2 quintillion. The chances of anybody in the U.S. winning are under 1 in a billion.

This is a great example of Buffett’s business savvy that made him a billionaire in the first place. He was able to use the media to his advantage, get his name back into the public eye, and will almost certainly not have to deal with the monetary consequences of a perfect bracket.

Whether your bracket is perfect, or far from it, March Madness is here. You may not use bracketology to win a billion dollars, but the tournament is already shaping up to be one of the most exciting in years. We might as well enjoy it.