Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Relatively speaking, the odds of a perfect bracket are pretty good this year

Last year, I attempted to calculate the odds of filling out a perfect bracket in the NCAA Tournament. Using my betting market rankings, I found that the odds of a perfect bracket are about 50 billion to 1 (give or take 20 billion). This year, however, if I use the same methodology, the perfect bracket odds are "just" 6 billion to 1. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight is even more optimistic. Using their model, they estimate a perfect bracket to be a 1.6 billion to 1 proposition.

In case you're looking for help with your bracket picks this year, here is a link to that 6 billion to 1 bracket. Of the four regions, the West has the best chance of coming in perfectly. Here are the odds for each region, plus the final four:

  • Midwest: 270 to 1
  • West: 148 to 1
  • East: 167 to 1
  • South: 203 to 1
  • Final Four: 4 to 1

If you follow the link, you'll find that this bracket has quite a lot of chalk. There are very few upsets predicted, especially as we get to the later rounds. Because this bracket adheres to the general consensus so closely, it is probably not the best one to use for an office pool, where you'll need to get lucky with a few upsets in order to come out on top.

But all upsets are not created equal, and we can use my rankings to find the most likely upsets to pick. I used the following rule to create a more upset-heavy bracket: Pick the lower seed in a matchup provided they were no worse than a projected two point underdog to their opponent. See here for the results. There's still not a lot of upsets here, but we do have 11 seed Texas surviving all the way to the Elite Eight, and two seed Virginia squaring off against Kentucky in the final.

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