June 14, 2024

Rooting for the Underdog

By Audri Richins

About 70 million March Madness brackets are filled out every year, according to the American Gaming
Association, and no one yet has completed a perfect one.
Maybe no one ever will.

The odds of creating a perfect bracket is 1 in 9.2 quintillion, according to mathematicians on the
Internet. Or, more precisely, 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

Chris Fano of Logan has been filling out brackets for 18-plus years. “I fill each out thinking it will be
perfect, like any hopeful basketball fan,” he said, “but I really do it for the competition and the thrill of
choosing a lower seed for a good Cinderella story.”

Like Fano, other college basketball fans look forward to the madness, and the possibility of the perfect bracket. But tens of millions of brackets are shattered every year by one underdog basketball team or another.

Sixty-four teams were selected for March Madness. Those teams were placed in a bracket based on
seeding, which was determined by wins, and losses and the difficulty of the regular-season schedule.
As a comparison, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot is 1 in 292 million. The odds of getting
struck by lightning in any given year is 1 in 500,000.

If the odds are so low, why do basketball fans try every year? “I do it for the adrenaline rush I get while
watching games between a high and low seed,” said Brian Pace, a March Madness enthusiast for 20-plus years. “The idea of a 14 seed upsetting a 1 seed keeps the tournament engaging and full of emotion.”

“Once an underdog ruins my bracket, I want upsets to happen every game,” Fano said. “Seeing teams
you have never heard of before beat a well-known program is something to behold. Underdog teams
are so popular because everyone considers themselves an underdog and wants to see the little guy

Low seeds, underdogs, and Cinderellas always ruin the perfect bracket, yet fans find themselves rooting for them. The 2022 tournament was full of upsets and broken brackets, but that won’t stop basketball
fans from participating in the madness next year.