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Odds of winning lottery 1,000x greater than picking perfect NCAA bracket

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

Published: Tuesday, March, 18, 2014 --- 10:30 p.m.

"I really like filling these out on paper, it's nostalgic almost." March Madness brings Sam Zastrow back to high school.

"We would take everyone's bracket and everyone's money and highlight the teams that won and cross out the teams that won and it was just kind of a fun process," Zastrow said.

Fast forward six years, and the 24-year-old is still waiting to cash in on the NCAA tournament.

"I like to think I know a lot about sports and the right strategy but without fail I do poorly every year," he said.

Now Zastrow fills out his bracket more for fun. "This year I have Arizona [winning the tournament], just because I think they kind of have the easiest path."

Among fans who think they'll have better luck, one of the richest men in the world is offering a sweet prize. Enter the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, correctly pick the winner of all of the games and Warren Buffett will give you $1 billion.

"It's like finding a needle in a haystack, a very very big haystack," said Laura McLay.

McLay isn't betting on anyone. "There are 9.2 quintillion possible outcomes of the tournament if you look at the 63 games," she said.

The UW-Madison engineering associate professor says even if you do your research on each team, your odds of creating the perfect bracket are roughly 1 in 128 billion.

People even have a better shot of buying a winning lottery ticket Tuesday night in the Mega Millions drawing.

"I think in Wisconsin, the odds are about 1 in 175 million, which is roughly 1,000 times more likely than picking a perfect bracket," McLay said.

But she says both are nearly impossible. So enjoy the process, and don't worry about the outcome.

"One of my biggest regrets about leaving college was not being able to sit around and watch basketball all day," Zastrow said.


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