Gregg Nigl was sick on the first Thursday of the 2019 NCAA Tournament and so he excused from office, planning to stay in bed for recovery. However, before his nap, he decided to fill out a bracket and that happened to be the best one in the history of March Madness.
The neuropsychologist’s picks went on winning through the first round and then the second. Thus, he earned the distinction of being the first person in the history of the tournament to correctly predict every game through the Sweet 16.
He went 49 for 49 and thus shattered the previous record of 39. After this achievement, Nigl appeared on the Today show where he attributed the secret of his success to “watching a lot of Big 10 basketball……… and a lot of luck.” He was also flown out to Anaheim California to watch Michigan play Texas Tech by one of the tournament’s sponsors.
The lucky neuropsychologist’s brilliant streak ended on the 50th game of the tournament when Tennessee lost against Purdue in overtime. However, his accomplishment was still incredible as the odds of his making 49 for 49 were extremely low.
He came closer than ever in history to a perfect bracket, a feat that looks impossible to be achieved by any human being. This is because the likelihood of accurately predicting all 63 games is a staggering one in 9.2 quintillion. And if a player possesses some knowledge about college basketball, then the odds of going perfect in March is one in 120.2 billion.
To grasp this point better, let’s take the examples of some highly unlikely occurrences. A lot of people in the US aspire to become professional basketball players but they all know how unlikely it is to fulfill that ambition.
In a typical season, around 54,000 players engage in men’s high school basketball. But approximately one in 35 get to play in college, and from these lucky few, only one in 75 make it to the NBA. So, the odds of reaching the NBA and playing professionally for a high school basketball player are one in 3,300. Compared to a perfect bracket, that is still 36 million times more likely.
Now let’s compare the odds of a perfect bracket to being hit by a meteorite, an occurrence extremely unlikely for anyone in the world. However, at odds of 1.6 million to one, that is still 75,000 more probable than achieving perfection in March Madness.
One is even 3,610 times more likely to win the Lotto Max jackpot (which has 1 in 33.3 million chance) than getting a perfect bracket.
Although a perfect bracket is highly improbable, sports fans are less likely to be discouraged by all that. Stories like that of Gregg Nigl will always spur them on. The same thing is true for football as well, with its fans more encouraged by a story of the person who guesses his Premier League goal leaders of the season correctly than many others who don’t.