March is here, which means college basketball is about to get crazy! In this article, we are talking about brackets! Where did this contest come from, and why is it so hard?

The Origin of Brackets

While people have been predicting the outcome of sporting events for almost as long as they have been playing in them, the origin of the bracket can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term “bracket” was first used in 1939 by an Ohio State University official trying to develop a catchy name for the college basketball tournament. That’s right; bracket wasn’t the name of the guessing form until much later.

In 1977, a Staten Island Bar charged patrons $10 in what is one of the first documented examples of an American college basketball pool bracket. The rules were simple: Whoever got the most games correct won the whole pot. Since then, they have grown into quite the phenomenon, with millions of fans and non-fans alike filling out brackets every year in the hopes of out-predicting their friends. 

In 2014, the next great leap in bracketology occurred. Warren Buffet began offering a billion-dollar prize to any employee who could perfectly predict the entire tournament. No one did that year or the next, and other organizations started looking into the odds and offering large prizes of their own.

What are the odds?

The odds of correctly predicting an entire bracket are 1 in 1 in 147.6 quintillion. In fact, just predicting who will be in the final game has odds of 1 in 73.8 quintillion. Even factoring things like team seed, history of similar games, injury list, etc., is of little help. It turns out that to be human is to be wildly unpredictable! Each year, there are numerous upsets (some bigger than others *cough cough* FDU *cough cough*).

Despite the challenges, the excitement and anticipation surrounding March Madness and the bracket challenge have made it a beloved tradition for basketball fans nationwide. Whether you live and breath college basketball or are just looking for a fun way to beat your friends, filling out a bracket can be a thrilling and entertaining experience.

If you have any pointers for this year’s bracket, leave them in the comment section below!