Over the weekend the NCAA Tournament men’s brackets were finalized, which means the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge has opened. Backed by Warren Buffett, the challenge will pay anyone who can pick a perfect bracket a billion dollars. That is not a typo. It is a billion with a B, nine zeroes.
The women’s bracket, which was released on Monday night (sorry Stanford), is unfortunately not part of the challenge. That’s too bad because WBB fans could use a billion bucks too. While women’s college basketball remains top heavy—there are decidedly fewer upsets than on the men’s side— so filling out a bracket is in many ways more difficult. Maybe next year Buffet will get on board and add the women’s tourney to his challenge.
To win the Billion Dollar Bracket this year, participants must correctly pick the winners of all 63 games in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament.
USA Today, WaPo, Slate and other publications have pointed out that winning the Quicken challenge is all but impossible, with Buffett putting the odds at 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 — that’s one in 9 quintillion. For the math-challenged, a quintillion is 1 million times 1 trillion — a 1 with 18 zeros behind it. The odds are further stacked because the contest is limited to 15 million entrants, each allowed only one entry.
If you do enter a perfect bracket, you will win either $500 million up front or $25 million a year for the next 40 years. Or if you don’t want to wait around that long, you can claim a lump sum payment of just half: $500 million. If no one wins, the top 20 imperfect brackets will receive $100,000 for use in buying, refinancing or remodeling a home.
With it’s near impossible odds, the challenge is nothing more than a clever marketing scheme and/or a great way to get non-basketball fans to participate (err, I mean become aware of Quicken Loans). So before you spend all that dough (if in fact you can do the impossible), remember there is a tax liability. If you’re single, you’ll pay about $394,213,920 in federal income taxes on $1 billion ($197,955,348 if you take the lump sum).
Thing to Know About Picking a Winning Bracket
If you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, pick your bracket based on alphabetical order. You will end up picking Albany over Florida who is favored to win the whole thing but you never know.
Don’t like the ABC approach? Do a mascot bracket (based on who would win a mascot death fight) .
And don’t forget the 12-5 rule. At least one 12 seed beats a 5 seed almost every year.
The most important thing to know is that the only sure thing during March Madness is that there are no sure things.
The 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins on March 18, with the championship game to be played on April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The 2014 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament begins on Saturday, March 22, with the championship game to be played April 8 in Nashville, Tennessee.