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March Madness is college basketball’s version of survival of the fittest. Every year, 64 teams enter the competition, and one by one, they’re eliminated with each loss. The stronger team moves ahead, facing tougher competitors as they go. And the strongest team of all takes home the hardware.

That means there are 64 brackets that can be filled in when trying to predict how the action will unfold. These brackets have become an annual ritual for much of North America.


Filling A Bracket

People have been filling in March Madness tournament brackets for roughly 40 years, and so far, nobody has predicted the entire tournament. The odds of doing that are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. The closest someone has gotten to filling out the brackets perfectly is the first 34 games.

Don’t sweat hitting the perfect bracket, though. In most contests, all you need to do is finish with a better score than the rest of the contestants. And winning the pot isn’t the only reason people fill in brackets. Every year, nearly 60 million Americans fill out brackets, and many of them do it for a reason to cheer along as the action unfolds.


The Upsets

The NCAA Tournament is known for upsets. What may seem like a lopsided matchup on paper often turns into an unexpected result. That’s especially true in the first round – we haven’t seen all of the top 16 seeds win on the first Thursday and Friday since 2007. That’s happened just five times since 1985.

Thinking of betting the No. 1 seeds to go the distance? While that’s generally a good strategy, only once – in 2008 – have all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four. A No. 1 seed has won the tournament only three times since the Selection Committee began ranking the teams (2004, 2007 and 2012), which goes to show how much value there is on the college basketball futures market for lower seeded teams. Only once in the last 20 tournaments have all four No. 2 seeds made it to the Sweet Sixteen, so they’re not safe either.


Never Turn Off Your TV

One aspect that makes March Madness so exciting is that almost any team can come back from any deficit at any time. Just ask Texas A&M. They somehow erased an 8-point deficit with 34 seconds left in their Round of 32 game in 2016. If you think you’ve lost your bet, or are planning to turn off your TV early because one team looks defeated, don’t write it off. In college basketball, it’s not over until it’s over.


*Odds as of February 27, 2017