Things can change until the first round begins on Thursday as people complete their brackets, but early data suggests Men's Bracket Challenge Game players are split when picking a national champion.
No one stands out from the pack — yet — when it comes to predicting which team will cut down the nets. Here's what we know, at least as of early Monday afternoon:
- Houston and Alabama are the two favorites, with both coming in better than 15 percent of brackets.
- Seven teams are picked as national champions on at least 5 percent of brackets — only five teams crossed that threshold last year
- Defending national champion Kansas is picked to repeat on nearly 12 percent of MBCG brackets — the third-highest among champion picks
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For comparison, Gonzaga was the top pick the last two seasons at 30.26 percent (2022) and 38.82 (2021), with the Bulldogs entering the 2021 tournament undefeated. But the run of a clear favorite stretches back even further than that, as Zion Williamson and Duke were the champ pick on 39.12 percent of MBCG brackets in 2019.
If these numbers stay around this range, this will be the year with the least-picked most popular champ since North Carolina at 14.55 percent in 2017. Of course, UNC won it all that year, so it's a good reminder that how popular — or unpopular — a top pick is doesn't mean everything. After all, 2014 national champion UConn was the title winner on only .023 percent of MBCG brackets.
Here's a look at recent data when it comes to the most-popular title winner and the eventual national champion:
|Year||Most-picked champ||Actual champ|
|2022||Gonzaga (30.26)||Kansas (7.87)|
|2021||Gonzaga (38.82)||Baylor (8.43)|
|2019||Duke (39.12)||Virginia (5.86)|
|2018||Villanova (17.52)||Villanova (17.52)|
|2017||North Carolina (14.55)||North Carolina (14.55)|
|2016||Kansas (24.87)||Villanova (2.36)|
|2015||Kentucky (46.57)||Duke (10.54)|
|2014||Florida (26.04)||UConn (0.23)|
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