Charles Barkley Tears Into Barack Obama’s March Madness Bracket As Fans Bid To Beat The Near-Impossible Odds Once Again

Charles Barkley tears into Barack Obama’s March Madness bracket as fans bid to beat the near-impossible odds once again (CNN via CNN Newsource)

By Ben Church and Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — It’s that time of year again, when anyone and everyone turns into a college basketball expert.

It’s one of the few things in sport that has never been done before, but that doesn’t stop fans from across the world attempting to successfully complete their perfect March Madness bracket every year.

The task is simple, yet almost impossible. All you have to do is successfully predict every result in all 63 games up until a national champion is crowned.

Barack Obama is one of millions to perennially try his luck at history every year, but it seems even the former US president’s picks aren’t above ridicule, as NBA legend and CNN host Charles Barkley ripped into his bracket attempt.

“He went with the traditional pick, everyone is picking UConn […] so he’s just copying off someone else’s paper,” said Barkley, when analyzing Obama’s men’s bracket on CNN show “King Charles.”

The 11-time NBA All-Star wasn’t any more impressed with Obama’s attempt for the women’s bracket: “See, he just went chalk. He picked South Carolina because everybody in the world picks South Carolina.”

Barkley also had a message for those trying to become the first person in history to get it right.

“I only fill out one. All those other fools be filling out like five. That’s one of the 10 commandments: you only get one bracket. One bracket, fools,” he laughed.

Like picking one second in 292 billion years

A bracket is a way of referring to the 64-team format which plots the route of each team if they were win their matches. After teams are seeded, they are split into four regional groups (East, South, West and Midwest) and scheduled against teams at the other end of seeding scale. For example, the first seed faces the 16th seed and the second faces the 15th and so on.

Following the opening round – colloquially called the “First Four,” which sees four teams exit – the remaining 64 teams play single-elimination games in neutral venues to eventually crown the national champion.

Truth is, whether you’ve been an avid college basketball watcher all season or you just pick the teams based on the colors they wear, it doesn’t really matter.

Due to the number of upsets and “Cinderella” stories March Madness tends to throw up, it has proven an impossible feat so far: the odds of getting every result correct are an extraordinary one to nine quintillion.

As explained to CNN Sport in 2023 by Tim Chartier – distinguished visiting professor at the US National Museum of Mathematics and Joseph R. Morton professor of mathematics and computer science at Davidson College – nine quintillion is a nine followed by 18 zeroes.

Chartier helped put that into context: “I’m going to pick one second in 292 billion years, and your job is to tell me which second I pick.”

If you’re struggling with the raw numbers, Chartier suggests a physical representation of the nine quintillion to help. He says that the height of nine quintillion dollar bills stacked on top of one another is equivalent to the distance of going from Earth to Pluto over 60 times.

Chartier outlines that after running some calculations himself, he came up with some probabilities which help better put it into perspective.

“So you have better odds of winning the Powerball with two consecutive tickets than getting a perfect bracket,” he said. “You’ve better odds that a family of four will all get hit by lightning in their lifetime than picking a perfect bracket.

“There is a stat out there that there’s a one in 10,000 chance that you get injured by a toilet. So there are better odds that that same family of four all get injured by the toilet than picking a perfect bracket.”

Has anyone come close?

The longest streak of correct predictions came in 2019 by a neuropsychologist from Ohio who managed to pick the winner in the first 49 games of March Madness that year correctly.

Gregg Nigl became the first person to have a verified bracket which picked every game correctly through the tournament into the Sweet 16, only falling in the 50th game when No. 2 seed Tennessee lost to No. 3 seed Purdue in overtime.

But don’t fear, there is hope – apparently.

Chartier believes the near impossible feat will be achieved one day but does admit that it may take a while.

And when it does happen, Chartier – who spends much of his time researching the art of bracketology and teaching people how to implement his research into March Madness brackets – believes it will be done by someone who knows “nothing about basketball.”

“That’s because, a lot of times, you’re trying to predict literally the unpredictable, is that you’re trying to predict randomness, that there are certain games that that outcome is relatively random,” he said.

“Some of it isn’t. Sometimes, there’s something about a team that we just didn’t realize, it was the perfect match-up for another team.”

Despite the insane number of possibilities, there do seem to be trends forming from people’s picks this year.

CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten says 25% of people have picked No. 1 seed UConn to win the men’s tournament, while 46.1% of picks predict NC State will be the biggest first-round upset.

The issue is, the nation doesn’t have great form.

Enten adds that the most popular No. 1 pick since 2014 was Kentucky in 2015. But, despite all the expectation, Kentucky didn’t even make the final that year. Also, in 2014, only 0.23% of people predicted UConn would win the men’s tournament.

But, in truth – maybe – that’s the beauty of it.

March Madness is as unpredictable as it is exciting and fans across the world will be watching once again, hoping that this is the year when someone, somewhere, does the nigh-impossible.

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