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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | April 17, 2019

The 2019 bracket challenge winner is a reminder of the most important bracket lesson

2019 One Shining Moment

After all was said and done, out of millions of brackets entered into our Capital One Bracket Challenge Game, one stood above the rest: “mjbrewer”, which finished with 178 points to take sole possession of first place and capture the Bracket Challenge Game crown.

That’s quite a bit better than the average for all completed brackets: 72.2 points.

Here’s a look at the champion bracket:

The best bracket in the Bracket Challenge Game score 178 points

You may notice a lot of red there early on. Of the first 48 games, “mjbrewer” only got 38 right. It may not seem like a strong start, but it was a lot less detrimental than it looks. 

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The bracket didn’t pick a single 1, 2, 3, or 4 seed to lose its opening round game. This year, only one of those 16 teams fell in the first round (4-seed Kansas State, which lost to 13-seed UC Irvine), so even if it seemed boring at the time, having the top-seeded teams still alive in the second round was key to the bracket’s future success, especially when 14 of those 16 survived until the Sweet 16.

It also goes to show how relatively unimportant the first 48 games are by themselves. After that first weekend, all eyes were on Gregg Nigl’s “center road” bracket, which had miraculously stayed perfect through all 48 games in the first two rounds. The “mjbrewer” bracket would have been 10 games (and 14 points) behind “center road” at this point — a pretty large disparity.

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But then “mjbrewer” correctly predicted all eight of the Sweet 16 games, all four of the Elite Eight games, both Final Four games, and the championship. On the other hand, “center road” went 6-for-15 to finish out the tournament, only getting one Final Four team correct, and neither team in the championship game. The “center road” bracket would finish with 92 points, in 240,668th place.

That follows the trends we’ve seen over the past nine years of Bracket Challenge Game history. Since 2011, every bracket that has won BCG has gotten both Final Four games correct and picked the correct champion. 

YEAR 1st ROUND 2nd ROUND SWEET 16 ELITE EIGHT FINAL FOUR champ Pts
2019 26/32 12/16 8/8 4/4 2/2 1/1 178
2018 27/32 12/16 6/8 3/4 2/2 1/1 163
2017 28/32 13/16 6/8 4/4 2/2 1/1 174
2016 25/32 11/16 7/8 4/4 2/2 1/1 171
2015 25/32 15/16 7/8 4/4 2/2 1/1 179
2014 25/32 11/16 6/8 4/4 2/2 1/1 167
2013 22/32 12/16 7/8 3/4 2/2 1/1 162
2012 23/32 12/16 7/8 3/4 2/2 1/1 163
2011 25/32 10/16 5/8 2/4 2/2 1/1 145

There are only 192 available points in traditional bracket scoring, so seeing as those three games are worth 64 points, that makes them equal to the first 48 games of the tournament (also worth a total of 64 points). 

On average, the winning bracket only gets 37 of the first 48 games correct (77.1 percent), but 13 of the last 15 right (86.7 percent).

In fact, the best bracket this year that didn’t pick the Cavaliers to win the championship finished in 2,240th place. 

So, if you want to end up featured in this story next year, the path is very straightforward: Pick the correct Final Four and champion in your bracket. It’s that easy.