Good Question: March Madness ‘Reply All’

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

  • “How many combinations of winners can you make with the NCAA tournament bracket?” — Jean from New Brighton
  • By taking the classic 64-team bracket, the number of possible outcomes for those games is 9 quintillion, 223 quadrillion. (Written out, that’s 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.)

    So if you did one bracket a second, it would take you 42 years to fill out all the combinations.

    But this year it’s different, because there are 4 play-in games. That minor change makes a major difference in the number of combinations. From 9 quintillion, to 147 quintillion! (Or 147,573,952,589,676,412,928.)


  • “How much money do colleges make for getting into the tournament?” -– Bryan Thiery, St. Michael
  • The money actually goes to the conferences … Big Ten, Big East, etc. According to the NCAA 2011 revenue distribution plan, each game a team is in is worth $1.4 million, that money gets paid out over a six-year period.

    So you don’t get money for winning the championship, but you do get money for losing your opening round. The conferences then distribute that money to the schools, typically it’s pooled and distributed equally.

  • “Why do we call it March Madness?” –- Brian from Appelton, Minn.
  • The term bounces back to high school basketball in Illinois – from an essay in 1939 called “March Madness.” It was written by a member of the Illinois High School Association, writing about the high school tournament.

    CBS Sports announcer Brent Musberger is given credit for making the term popular in the college hoops tournament in the early 1980s.

    The NCAA didn’t get the trademark to March Madness until 1996. They had to sue to get it from a video game company.

  • “Why don’t basketball coaches wear uniforms like baseball coaches do?” — Sarah from Minneapolis
  • Baseball coaches are the only ones to wear uniforms, because they used to be players too. In 1985, Pete Rose was a player and the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

    Basketball used to have player-coaches, guys like Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens, but right now, that’s against the terms of the NBA’s contract with its players union.

    More from Jason DeRusha
    • Sgt

      Why has March Madness been on CBS for the last 25 plus years?

    • Nancy Aleshire

      Does WCCO require its employees to participate in the Bracket Challenge?

    • Terry Becker

      Yeah, the math is a bit off on the one-bracket per second calculation. Keeping it simple by using a rounded 365 days per year, the classic 64-team bracket would take you 292,471,208,677,536 years (292 billion, 471 million, 208 thousand, 677 and a half years).

      One million seconds ago is about 11.5 days ago. One billion seconds ago (1,000 million in the USA) is a little less than 32 years. One trillion (1,000 billion) jumps to 32,000 years, one quadrillion becomes 32 million years and one quintillion becomes 32 billion years. This is more than twice as far back as current cosmology generally agrees for the start of the Big Bang.

      Big numbers can make you go “…whoa.”

      • Terry Becker

        Sorry, should be a decimal point – not a comma – before 536 at the end of the number of years: 292,471,208,677.536.

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    • Kelly

      What is the lowest seed to ever win the championship game?

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