Skip to main content

The Oracle of ESPN?

Maybe your Final Four selections remain intact as March Madness gets closer to migrating to North Texas for its hardcourt denouement on April 5 and 7. As for perfect brackets, well that notion went out the window quite quickly during this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, behind early upsets from Mercer and Dayton.

The bracket-busting saved Warren Buffett $1 billion. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO and Quicken Loans, which is sponsoring and insuring Buffet’s billion dollar contest on Yahoo Sports, gained plenty of attention for the potential windfall emanating from one picking the entire NCAA pool correctly.

How many entrants didn’t capitalize on Buffett’s beneficence? That is a matter of some debate. Yahoo didn’t respond to a count request for Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge or for that matter its Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’em pool, while Berkshire Hathaway said it might only reply to snail mail, which seems particularly absurd given that the query concerns a digital game.

For its part, TV Week estimated that there were about 2.5 million Billion Dollard Bracket Challenge players, and about twice that number for the Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick'em pool this year.

Might the odds of a the huge payout – by the way, the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge will still shell out a tidy $100,000 apiece to its 20 top players – increase if Buffett backed ESPN’s Tournament Challenge? 

Probably not.

Some mathematicians/odds-makers peg the chance of 63-for-63 bracket perfection -- the quartet of First Four games don’t count -- at 1 in 128 billion because there are 9.2 quintillion ways –whatever that means -- to fill out a bracket.

Still in the sense of the more the merrier – or more miserable when it comes to March Madness misfires – the chances figure to be greater with ESPN, which saw the tally for its Tournament Challenge grow 36% from 8 million in 2013.

Asked if it were interested in teaming with Buffett's billion play in in 2015 and beyond, ESPN sounded like it was open to providing a bracket assist to the Oracle of Omaha:  “We’re thrilled with the 11.01 million ESPN Tournament Challenge brackets this year and we congratulate Quicken and Warren Buffett for a clever idea," said a spokeswoman for the worldwide leader.  "We believe in our ability  -- because of the platform we've built -- to take something already good and make it better.”