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NCAA bracket predictions: You’re not picking a perfect bracket, and here’s why

It seems so easy: Just get all the games right. And here’s why it’s all but impossible.

The NCAA Tournament is considered one of the best championship tournaments in sports due to its bracket format. The one-and-done bracket featuring 68 teams spurs competitions across the country, from friendly office pools to high-stakes wagers. There are even those who offer prizes to pick a perfect bracket. Here’s why those people will never have to pay up.

According to the NCAA, the odds of picking a perfect bracket are 9.2 quintillion to 1. You read that right, it’s quintillion. That’s after trillion and quadrillion, so we’re really getting into the most minuscule of minuscule chances. That’s why the prizes are so big, with Warren Buffet recently offering $1 billion for a perfect entry.

To put that absurdly large number in more context, there are about 7.5 quintillion grains of sand on Earth per NPR. If each grain of sand represented one bracket, there’s still a chance not a single grain would be “perfect” as you still have about 1.7 quintillion other grains unaccounted for. And the chances of you finding that one perfect grain across the whole world is essentially zero.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enter these pools. There are ways to help the odds move in your favor substantially, dropping the chances down from the quintillions to the much more manageable billions.

If you know enough about college basketball and the history of bracket seeds advancing, you have a better shot at filling out a perfect bracket. Advancing all the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds is a great way to start, and if you keep following the math down that path your odds will likely end up around 128 billion to 1. It’s not great, but it’s better than being in the quintillions.