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March Madness math: Odds of nailing perfect NCAA basketball bracket are one in 9.2 quintillion

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President Obama may not know what comes after a trillion, but college basketball fans need to be familiar with quintillion. It has 18 zeroes following its primary number.

March Madness looms, along with the call of the traditional workplace guessing game and the culture that accompanies it. Fans hoping to nail the perfect NCAA bracket of college basketball championship matchups have a long road in front of them, according to the mathmatically inclined who suggest that eager speculators should consider the odds “weighing against perfection.”

So says Jeff Bergen, a mathematics professor at DePaul University in Chicago and a lifelong collegiate basketball fan. He has figured out the odds. They are not so good.

“The odds of picking a perfect bracket are less than one-in-9.2 quintillion,” the good professor declares. “For those with a solid knowledge of the history of the NCAA tournaments, the odds of picking a perfect bracket increase greatly but still involve numbers with lots of zeroes.”

He’s ready to put his calculations where his mouth is. Mr. Bergen demonstrates his complex math on YouTube at

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