NCAA March Madness or March Randomness? A different analysis on the perfect bracket.

For people living in the northern hemisphere of the globe March brings them Spring and with it better weather and longer days, but if you are a NCAA Basketball fan, March brings you Madness. NCAA Basketball March Madness is one of the most exciting sport events during the year, and despite the school you are cheering for, there’s one goal that almost every fan has, predicting the perfect bracket.


If you know some probability or you have researched the probabilities of guessing the perfect bracket, you know that your chances of choosing a perfect bracket before the tournament starts is 1/263  , translated in words, your chances are around one  in nine quintillion (yes, it’s my first time using this word). But this is under the assumption that  every team has exactly the same chance of winning the tournament, so if you know a little bit about the tournament your chances can increase. But even if you are an expert your chances of predicting a perfect bracket remain extremely small.

Since the tournament almost got to an end, I would like to zoom in the bracket and focus on the final four and the champion. What I want to do is to compare 3 different types of ‘strategies’ and compare them to see how well they could’ve predicted the Final Four and an eventual champion (Since I posted this Friday I still don’t know the winner)  , The three strategies are the following , the first one is the people’s choice (using the ESPN Tournament Challenge people’s selection, second one is complete randomness (every team has equally chances of winning),  and a strategy that mix randomness with some few known facts.

Known Facts

There are some facts related to the seed of a team that help you discard certain scenarios or to give them less chance. The facts that I will use are the following:

  • Number 11 seed is the lowest seed ever to make the Final Four
  • Number 8 is the lowest seed to win the championship
  • Out of the last 38 tournaments, there has been 3 times where there was not a No. 1 seed, 15 with 1 No. seed, 15 times with 2, 4 times with 3 and only 1 time where all the Final Four were the No. 1 seed.


Let’s look at how likely was to select a perfect Final Four for each strategy.

Final Four


Choosing a Final Four just considering basic facts (Rules) gives you 6 more chances to guess it right that the average of the Bracket players. Even though almost everyone is surprised by South Carolina, this year (2017) Final Four teams were predicted better than absolute randomness.


Now let’s take a look at how each strategy performs with each team for the Final Four and for the Championship title.

March Madness

  • Gonzaga.- Basic rules gave them a slightly better chance to be top 4 than people, definitely not part of the madness.
  • North Carolina – The most voted team to win the championship and to be at the Final Four. Clearly if they win “March Madness” won’t be that crazy
  • Oregon.- People predicted better than randomness and facts on their Final Four appearance, although people gave them the same chances as randomness to win the championship title.
  • South Carolina.- Total randomness gave them better chance to be at the Final Four and the Championship. If they win the title on April 3rd, it will be “April MADNESS”


No matter what happened I hope this weekend bring us excitement and more knowledge to choose next year the perfect bracket.

Code avaliable here .




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