Selection Sunday marks the unofficial beginning of March Madness as well as the official start of one of the most time-honored traditions in college basketball: the quest to fill out the perfect NCAA Tournament bracket.
To describe that achievement as “easier said than done” would be the ultimate understatement.
In 2014, Warren Buffett gave employees at Berkshire Hathaway some major incentive to correctly pick the outcome of all 63 games placed over the course of the tourney when he offered to give $1 billion to anyone who was able to do exactly that.
Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket for a man who currently boasts a net worth of more than $100 billion, but he didn’t really need to worry that much when you realize the odds of picking the perfect bracket (at least in a theoretical vacuum) are a staggering 1 in 9.2 quintillion.
It’s worth noting the “true” chances are slightly lower when you have the ability to deploy your basketball knowledge while attempting to predict how things are going to pan out (for example, the result of first-round matchups between the top-seeded squad and the 16th-seeded team is usually a foregone conclusion with one very notable exception)
However, the odds are still decidedly not in your favor.
That won’t stop millions of people from deluding themselves into thinking this could be the year they defy them before the vast majority are forced to come to terms with the fact that their bracket has been busted by the time the first day of the first round wraps up.
With that said, there are some individuals who’ve managed to hold out hope for a bit longer—including one person who highlighted the virtually impossible nature of picking the perfect bracket with what remains the most accurate forecast in the history of the NCAA tournament.
The best March Madness bracket ever compiled still didn’t come close to being perfect
Before we dive into things, it’s worth noting the “history” in “March Madness history” needs to be saddled with an asterisk when you consider there’s no real way to verify brackets that were submitted back when you still had to print them out and track your wins with a highlighter.
However, the various websites that give basketball fans a chance to submit their brackets electronically and compete in online pools have a fair amount of data to comb through from the past couple of decades.
In 2015, a Cleveland man known only as “Malachi” was one of five people on ESPN’s platform to successfully nail every single game in the first round (which was especially impressive when you consider he admitted he hadn’t watched a full game the entire season).
He’d go on to set what was then the unofficial record after successfully predicting the outcome of 34 consecutive contests before Arizona topped Ohio State in the second round to bring the impressive run to an end.
Two years later, a new bar was set when a Yahoo user known as “Dario’s Delinquents” went into the Sweet Sixteen with their bracket still intact. When everything was said and done, their streak ended at 39 after Purdue topped Iowa State to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16.
In 2019, a new challenger entered the arena and absolutely obliterated the previous mark.
The man in question was Gregg Nigl, the Ohio-based neuropsychologist who successfully projected the outcome of the first 49 games (as was the case with Dario’s Delinquents, the Boilermakers played spoiler when they secured the overtime victory over Tennessee in the Sweet 16).
Nigl’s achievement highlights just how difficult it is to put together a perfect bracket when you consider he was ultimately only able to pick two of the teams who competed in the Final Four (Gonzaga, his choice to win the national championship, failed to advance out of the Elite Eight).
As a result, feel free to tell yourself that this is your year—but don’t be shocked if that doesn’t turn out to be the case for you or literally anyone else on the planet until the end of time.