Who wants to be a billionaire?


The odds may not be in your favor, but SAS Analytics could help you win a huge prize.

As you may have heard, billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert have teamed up to offer $1 billion to anyone who can create a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket. “Wow,” you might say. “How hard can it be to create a perfect bracket? I could really use a billion bucks!”

Well, the answer is “really, really, unbelievably hard.” So hard that in the history of March Madness, no one has ever done it. For you math lovers out there, the odds are supposedly 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

And what if someone is actually able to create this magical winning bracket?

"I will invite him or her to be my guest at the final game and be there with a check in my pocket, but I will not be cheering for him or her to win," Buffett said, jokingly. "I may even give them a little investment advice.”

Gaining a competitive edge

Is there a way to increase your chance of success? SAS Analytics software just might be the answer. Three professors have been using SAS to predict the at-large tournament bids with 93.5 percent accuracy for 11 years. That’s 73 of 74 over the last two seasons for those keeping track at home.

Yes, the same software that enables us to better predict what customers will buy, prevent credit card fraud, and keep criminals off the street, can also help you win a billion dollars. I’ve already submitted my bracket and here’s what I used to create it:

In addition to SAS products, here are the other sources I tapped:

 Helpful Hints

Through my research, I’ve also compiled a list of some helpful (and some not-so-helpful) factors for selection. Here’s what’s been successful in the past:

  • RPI (Rating Percentage Index), based upon wins, losses, and strength of schedule
  • Jeff Sagarin rankings from USA Today
  • Wins against top 25 teams (per RPI rankings)
  • Wins against teams ranked 26-50
  • Neutral court wins (Note: conference tournaments matter!)
  • Record and rank in-conference (regular season championships matter!)
  • Strength of conference (conferences do matter!)

And here’s what doesn’t work:

  • A team’s record in the last 10 games, i.e. the "hot team" myth:
    • Strong finish is not important to the vs. a team’s overall performance
    • Those "hot teams" are often doing some of the other things -- winning on neutral courts, and beating teams in the top 25 or top 50 – that do help boost their chances according to the Dance Card
    • A team’s record against teams ranked 50-100
      • Winning against good teams helps, and the Dance Card model shows there's little downside in losing to good teams
      • The lesson for athletic directors? Schedule less cupcakes and more top 50 RPI teams

Now it’s your turn!

I challenge every SAS user to submit their own bracket. Let’s use SAS to create that one in a quintillion bracket that will win it all! Sign up and get in on the action.


About Author

Kathy Ball

Systems Engineer

Kathy Ball is a Senior Systems Engineer for the SAS US Energy Division, which solves problems in the Oil & Gas and Utilities industries. Kathy has more than 20 years of business experience working with energy companies in the Americas and around the globe. Kathy graduated with a Master’s degree in Operations Management from Purdue University and undergraduate degrees in Geology and Civil Engineering. She has presented at SAS Global Forum, Utility Analytics Institute, and currently has four patents pending for SAS.


  1. You are pure genius, Ms. Ball. What a great asset you are to SAS. Keep pushing the envelope and never give up when they tell you it can't be done. You just keep telling them "watch me!"

  2. For those of us who know you well, this is a perfect reflection of your intellect, drive and loyalty to SAS and it's products. Keep up the good work. We're blessed to have you as a colleague and friend.

  3. Beverly Brown on

    Doggone it, Ohio! Busted Kathy's bracket to smithereens. Mine's a steaming pile too. Wait'll next year!

    • Alison Bolen
      Alison Bolen on

      Ohio State busted my son's bracket this year too. He almost cried; that game was a true upset!

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