The most heart-breaking NCAA tournament bracket upsets, according to the data
March Madness upsets thrill us. They also often ruin brackets.
First-round upsets can end perfect brackets not long after the NCAA tournament starts, but six recent shockers did the most damage to people's brackets — perfect or not.
Since the 2014 tournament, when we have complete data, we looked at Bracket Challenge Game brackets and found the six tournament upsets the public picked the least.
Check it out:
In a fun twist, UMBC's historic upset of No. 1 overall seed Virginia in 2018 is NOT the least-picked first-round upset since 2014. But it is No. 2, with only 2.18 percent of BCG users picking UMBC.
Instead, Middle Tennessee beating Michigan State in 2015 as a No. 15 seed is the most surprising, at least going by BCG data. Only 2.13 percent of players had the Blue Raiders beating the Spartans. Click or tap here for the list below of more games.
Here's the longest an NCAA bracket has stayed perfect
Going 63-for-63. It's a chase that however unlikely remains the ultimate bracket goal.
Has anyone come close to picking every single NCAA tournament game correctly? Let's take a look.
We believe the record is 49, when Greg Nigl of Columbus, Ohio, went 49-for-49 to start the 2019 tournament. That means Nigl picked every single game right through the first weekend, when only 16 teams remained. Only when Purdue beat Tennessee in the Sweet 16 did Nigl's run end.
Here are the last stands from previous years:
No perfect NCAA bracket lasted through the first round on Friday night, thanks to the historic 16-1 upset of UMBC over Virginia. Of the millions of brackets we tracked, 25 were perfect through the first 28 games of the tournament, but UMBC's win in game No. 29 knocked all of them out.
We saw an incredible 39 games picked to start the tournament, a number that was the highest recorded until 2019. The record-setting bracket, entered in Yahoo’s bracket game, was the only bracket to make it past 37 games unscathed, and managed to reach 39 straight correct picks before Iowa State fell short of a comeback against Purdue and handed the bracket its first loss of the tournament.
The longest anyone went this year was 25 games. With Stephen F. Austin's win over West Virginia on Friday night, the last remaining perfect NCAA tournament bracket busted. A 15-2 upset (Middle Tennessee over Michigan State) made this a tough year for brackets.
This was another top year, as one bracket in the ESPN online bracket game picked the first 34 games correctly, according to a story by ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell. ESPN said in 2016 that its 2015 bracket was the best start to a tournament it had on record in 18 years of its game.
2014 (and before)
Before 2017, the longest perfect bracket streak tracked was 36, according to Yahoo! Sports. In 2014, Brad Binder went 36-for-36 to start the tournament. Yahoo! Sports reported that Binder's bracket was the only time it had a perfect bracket go into the second round in its 18-plus years of hosting a game.
2021 NCAA tournament schedule
Clear your calendars, prep your brackets and get ready for a basketball-filled March.
Below is the full schedule for the 2021 NCAA tournament, broken down by round and including days and start times:
- Selection Sunday — 6 p.m. ET March 14
- First Four — 4 p.m. start on Thursday, March 18
- First round — 12 p.m. start on Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20
- Second round — 12 p.m. start on Sunday, March 21, and Monday, March 22
- Sweet 16 — 2 p.m. start on Saturday, March 27, and 1 p.m. start on Sunday, March 28
- Elite Eight — 7 p.m. start on Monday, March 29, and 6 p.m. start on Tuesday, March 30
- Final Four — 5 p.m. start on Saturday, April 3
- NCAA championship game — 9 p.m. Monday, April 5
The bracket reveal will be announced at 6 p.m. ET on CBS. Click or tap here for more March Madness schedule information.
Perfect bracket odds
So, are you feeling lucky?
Millions of people fill out March Madness brackets, hoping each pick turns out right. But changes are that won't happen.
Here's the TL/DR version of the odds of a perfect NCAA bracket:
- 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (if you just guess or flip a coin)
- 1 in 120.2 billion (if you know a little something about basketball)
These numbers are way too large to fully wrap your head around, but here are a handful of other statistics for reference, compared to 9.2 quintillion.
- There are 31.6 million seconds in a year, so 9.2 quintillion seconds is a quick 292 billion years.
- There have been 5 trillion days since the Big Bang, so repeat the entire history of our universe 1.8 million times.
- The Earth’s circumference is approximately 1.58 billion inches, so you’d have to walk around the planet 5.8 billion times.
- As of 2015, the best estimates for the number of trees on the planet was three trillion. Imagine that there was one single acorn hidden in one of those three trillion trees, and you were tasked with finding it on the first guess. Your odds of success are approximately three million times greater than picking a perfect bracket.