published Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Greeson: In March Madness the odds are against you

Looking for a last-minute tip to fill out your office-pool bracket? Here’s one: Save your 5 bucks.

The odds are impossibly long of picking a perfect bracket. How long? Well, there are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets. Yes, that’s a big number — 9.223 quintillion.

Here are some examples of just how big this number is:

If a person filled out a bracket per second, it would take 292 trillion years to fill out all possible sheets.

If all the people on earth filled out one bracket per second, it would take over 43 years to fill out every possible option.

If all possible brackets (on standard paper) were stacked, the pile would reach from the moon and back more than 1.1 million times.

All possible brackets (on standard paper) would weigh 90,000 times more than every man, woman and child on earth combined.

Good luck — but if you’re still looking for some last-minute tips, here you go:

Enjoy the experience: More than 30 million Americans participate in an NCAA pool, including President Obama. For checks and balances, Obama picked Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri and North Carolina in his Final Four. Surely that will lift his approval ratings in at least those states.

Find a 12 seed and make friends: Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, No. 12 seeds have more Sweet 16 appearances than teams seeded No. 7. Plus, a double-digit seed has made the Sweet 16 in 25 of the last 27 years. (Side hint: Long Beach State is poised and experienced and has played one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Did we mention the 49ers were a 12 seed?)

Ignore the No. 16 seeds: Jim Boeheim and Syracuse may have lost their center in Fab Melo, but the Orange are all but assured of being in the second round. The top-seeded teams in the brackets are 108-0 in first-round games since 1985.

Ride the No. 1s: Top seeds reach the Elite Eight 72 percent of the time, so three of Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Syracuse statistically will be in the Elite Eight. That said, at least one No. 1 will fall. The four top seeds have filled the Final Four just once — 2008 — and there have been three No. 1s in the Final Four only three times since 1985.

Look for stars: Whether it’s Kemba Walker last year or Christian Laettner 20 years ago, the best players seem to carry good teams. Here are three stars to watch: Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson.

And the winner is ...: Well-known. The NCAA champion has been a No. 4 seed or better every year since Danny Manning and Kansas won it all in 1988. And there was no way anyone had a perfect bracket back then, either.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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