March Madness: Longest perfect bracket streak (that we know of)
If you’re wondering about the prospect of a March Madness perfect bracket through the entire run of the NCAA tournament, consider this: It’s hard enough to get past the first two days with out a bust.
This 2016 tournament was no different. In fact, among major games with verified online brackets at NCAA.com, Bleacher Report, CBS, ESPN and Yahoo, the longest anyone went was 25 games to start the tournament. That's well below the 2015 tournament's reported (and verified) best, when one person in the ESPN online bracket game picked the first 34 games correctly, according to a story by ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell. The 34 straight is the longest a verified bracket from an online game has stayed perfect.
This is the number we're going with, but we acknowledge that in the history of brackets both online and traditional paper, there is at least decent chance the number is higher. The current bracket format has existed since 1985, and participation has grown to outrageous numbers. Estimates range from 60 Million to 100 Million overall. Perfectly accurate record keeping has not existed for the past 30 years, but recently the various game providers have tracked official and verified brackets as the tournament progresses.
Based on the reporting, we could not find verified brackets that have been perfect into the Sweet 16 (or 48 games) at all. There was a widely reported instance of a bracket that was perfect through two rounds in 2010, but there was no way to verify the bracket’s authenticity. It had been entered in an online game where picks could be altered between rounds, according to a Deadspin report at the time.
Last year, among four major online bracket contests, only one escaped the first two days with a perfect bracket. That was the 34 straight mentioned above.
ESPN said that bracket was the best start to a tournament it had on record in 18 years of its game. The best bracket overall was a Yahoo entrant that had an astounding 58 of 63 games (or lines) correct, said a Yahoo spokesperson in this FiveThirtyEight article.
From 2011 to 2015, all brackets in the Bracket Challenge Game, the official bracket game of the NCAA, were busted in the first round. In 2014 and 2015, some brackets went 31 for 32. All 2015 brackets were also busted in the round of 64 at online games with Yahoo and CBS Sports, according to their own reports.