March Madness: Another year without a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket

Mar 23, 2024, 5:15 PM

Yassine Gharram #24 of the Yale Bulldogs reacts after a 78-76 victory against the Auburn Tigers in ...

Yassine Gharram #24 of the Yale Bulldogs reacts after a 78-76 victory against the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2024 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It’s another year without a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket.

Surprising wins by Yale, Oakland and Duquesne busted many of the more than 22 million brackets entered in the largest contest, ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, and the last three fell on Friday night when James Madison beat Wisconsin 72-61.

With only 1,825 surviving the first day of action, the number was down to single digits after Friday’s early games. Florida Atlantic’s loss to Northwestern knocked out about half of the survivors Thursday, with the eighth-seeded Wildcats picked in about 45% of brackets.

It was down to 306 perfect brackets on the ESPN site before No. 10 seed Colorado beat seventh-seeded Florida, leaving 62. Yale’s victory over Auburn left just 10. And with just four games remaining on Friday night there were only three perfect brackets remaining on the ESPN site — and none in CBS’ contest or the one on March Madness Live, the NCAA’s official site.

Those three on ESPN were no longer perfect after James Madison’s victory.

The quest for a winless bracket also ended Friday.

One person on the ESPN site made it through the first day and then some without picking a game correctly, meaning they took a flyer on No. 16 seed Wagner over top-seeded North Carolina but missed on the actual losses by third-seeded Kentucky and No. 6 seeds Texas Tech and Brigham Young. They dropped out of contention for the ignominious honor of a perfectly imperfect bracket when Colorado beat Florida 102-100 on a last-second shot.

The odds of picking a perfect bracket at random — not even counting the play-in games — is 1 chance out of 2 to the 63rd power, which is 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, or about 1 in 9.2 quintillion (give or take 20 quadrillion or so). According to University of Hawaii researchers, that is more brackets than the number of grains of sand on Earth.

A record 22 million brackets were filled out on ESPN’s site, up 15% over last year, with some of the early results knocking out millions. Mississippi State’s 69-51 loss to Michigan State and Brigham Young’s 71-67 loss to Duquesne each took out more than 9 million brackets. The biggest upset of the first day, third-seeded Kentucky’s 80-76 loss to Oakland, also did some damage: The third-seeded Wildcats were picked in 95% of brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge to beat the 14th-seeded Golden Grizzlies.

CBS said its last perfect bracket was spoiled when Yale won on Friday afternoon.

Last year, when there were victories by No. 15 seed Princeton and No. 13 seed Furman on the first day, the last remaining perfect brackets fell on top-seeded Purdue’s loss to Fairleigh Dickinson — just the second No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in tournament history.

In the women’s tournament, which started on Friday, ESPN’s bracket challenge had a record 3.25 million entries — 56% more than last year. Almost half, 1.5 million, went out on Middle Tennessee’s victory over Louisville and 1.3 million others were taken out when Michigan State lost to North Carolina.

CBS also reported a record number of brackets for the women’s tournament, a 126% increase over last year.

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