March Madness: Duke’s loss costs millions Buffett’s billions

NCAA Tournament

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2014 — It took only 25 games for the dream of becoming a billionaire to be over.

The second day of the NCAA Tournament was full of upsets which ended any chance for someone to have a perfect bracket and win Warren Buffett’s billion-dollar challenge.

Three people had survived the first day without picking a game wrong in the Quicken Loan contest, according to the Yahoo sports website, but those brackets would only remain perfect until the half-way point of the second day. All three had chosen ninth-seed George Washington to upset #8 Memphis. The Memphis Tigers won, 71 – 66.

According to the Associated Press, Memphis coach Josh Pastner said, “If Warren Buffet wants to donate the (billion) to our university, we will take it and use it in good company.”

The perfect brackets were slowly picked off until third-seed Duke was defeated by fourteenth-seed Mercer in a dramatic upset.

Most of those who had picked Mercer, which according to Las Vegas odds makers was the top upset pick, probably did it because the team is heavily laden with seniors who have more size than the Blue Devils. Or it may have been because everyone likes to hate Duke.

After Stanford upset New Mexico, the perfect brackets dropped to 16. The Tennessee victory over UMass cut that number down to six, and Gonzaga’s win over Oklahoma State left only three standing.

Although no one will beat the 128 billion to 1 odds to win the $1 billion, the top 20 scores will each receive $100,000.

Warren Buffett, who ranks fourth on Forbes’ list of top billionaires, got non-basketball lovers interested in March Madness on January 21 when he offered $1 billion for a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket.

Buffett and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, partnered with Quicken Loans to create the “Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket” contest.

It was a fairly safe bet for Buffett to make with the odds so vastly in his favor, but it didn’t stop the estimated 15 million entrants from registering their picks for free.

At, only 0.03 percent of entrants were still perfect after Mercer upset Duke. They didn’t last much longer; when ninth-seed George Washington beat Memphis, there were no perfect brackets left. It took 25 games to end everyone’s hope of perfection this year. Last season it took 23 games, and 24 in 2012.

A year ago, not a single person of the 11 million who entered on ESPN’s website was perfect after a first day filled with upsets. Just four got 15 out of 16 right.

This year people lasted a little longer, but after 25 games, all 11 million entries had at least one mistake. So now, everyone can sit back and enjoy the games, and start planning their brackets for next year’s tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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