By Dr. Mark Denison — It all began 76 years ago. We call it March Madness. I’m talking, of course, of the NCAA basketball championship. Back in 1939 only eight teams were invited to the “Big Dance.” In the final game, Oregon beat Ohio State, 46-33, to become the first national champion. Since that meager beginning, the tournament grew from eight teams to 16 in 1951. The number of teams would later expand to 22, 32, 40, 48, 52, and 64. In 2011 the pool was expanded to its current number of 68 teams. Exactly 20 percent of the 340 Division I teams get in. UCLA has won 11 titles, more than anyone else. My Alma Mater, Houston Baptist University, is just 11 behind them, but gaining fast.
March Madness has become the most gambled upon event in America. Millions fill out their brackets every year, and billions of dollars are on the line. Last year, Warren Buffet offered $1 billion to anyone who picked a perfect bracket. No one won, not even my wife. But that is no surprise when you consider the odds against picking a perfect bracket. One source claims the chances of picking every game are one in nine quintillion. Dr. Jay Burgen, math professor at DePaul, says the odds are one in 128 billion. Dr. Jonathan Mattingly, of Duke, says the odds are one in 2.4 trillion. Mr. Buffet’s money appears safe. Let’s put this in perspective. You have a chance to fill out a perfect bracket, picking all the right teams. But you are ten million times more likely to win an Academy Award. You are more likely to be struck by lightning, killed by a shark, or crushed by a falling vending machine. You are more likely to become a movie star, be killed by a falling coconut, become President, or get hit on the head by a meteorite while competing on Dancing with the Stars. In other words, the odds aren’t very good.
Try this for long odds. The Old Testament is full of prophecies of the coming Messiah: where he’d be born, how he’d be born, the condition of the world when he would be born, how he would die, how much money his betrayer would make off the betrayal, etc. What are the chances of a man fulfilling 60 of these prophecies? That would be 1/10 to the 64th power. You would have a better chance of picking a certain coin out of a pile two feet deep, the size of Texas. But Jesus did it. That is beyond dispute. So you have a choice. You can pick the brackets and play life’s lottery. Or you can bet it all on the only man who has already beaten the odds. Because of what he’s done, the odds are turned in your favor. You can’t lose.