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Daniel Wilco | | March 28, 2019

Oregon is the most popular Cinderella pick in the 2019 NCAA Bracket Challenge Game

Oregon Ducks vs. UC Irvine Anteaters: Game Highlights

Every year when March Madness begins, one of the first things we wonder is who will wear the slipper as the tournament’s Cinderella.

The answer this year is clear if you ask the millions of brackets in our Bracket Challenge Game. It's Oregon. The Ducks continue their tournament run at 9:57 p.m. Eastern tonight against No. 1 seed Virginia. They advanced to tonight's game with victories over Wisconsin and UC Irvine.

The 12-seed Ducks were picked to make the Sweet 16 in 16.9 percent of all brackets. That makes them the most popular Sweet 16 pick of any team seeded 8 or higher. We chose 8 because that is the lowest seed to win the tournament since the field expanded in 1985.

PREDICTIONS: 5 possible Cinderella runs in March Madness 2019

Oregon was ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP poll this year, but lost three of its first seven games and dropped out of the rankings for the season. The Ducks suffered three straight losses in February to drop them to 15-12 on the year, but they finished with eight wins in a row and beat Washington to win the Pac-12 tournament.

The second-most popular pick was another 12-seed: Murray State. The Racers have one of the most exciting players of the season in star guard Ja Morant, who averaged 24.6 points per game — the 8th-most in Division I this year. They finished the year at 27-4, and captured the OVC tournament title with a win over Belmont.

Of the 544 total teams that have made a Sweet 16 appearance since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only 17.3 percent have been 8-seeds or higher. Only 20 teams (3.7 percent) have been 12 seeds.

Still, there have only been two years in that 34-year span where the Sweet 16 didn’t include any teams seeded higher than 7. Those were 1995 and 2007. The most we’ve ever seen in one year is five, which happened in both 1999 (12-seed Missouri State, 10-seed Purdue, 10-seed Gonzaga, 13-seed Oklahoma, and 10-seed Miami (OH), and 2011 (11-seed Marquette, 8-seed Butler, 12-seed Richmond, 11-seed VCU, and 10-seed Florida State). 

Here are all the potential Cinderellas (8-16 seeds), ranked by how often they were picked to make the Sweet 16:

Seed Team To Sweet 16
12 Oregon 16.9%
12 Murray St 16.1%
11 Belmont 10.4%
11 Ohio St. 10.1%
8 Syracuse 10.0%
10 Florida 7.7%
13 UC Irvine 7.6%
12 New Mexico St. 5.9%
14 Yale 5.6%
12 Liberty 5.5%
11 St. Mary's 5.4%
9 Oklahoma 5.0%
10 Seton Hall 4.6%
11 Arizona St 4.4%
10 Iowa 3.9%
13 Saint Louis 3.8%
9 Baylor 3.6%
8 Mississippi 3.6%
13 Vermont 3.3%
10 Minnesota 3.1%
13 Northeastern 2.6%
14 Georgia St. 2.5%
14 N Kentucky 2.3%
9 Washington 2.3%
8 Utah St 2.2%
14 Old Dominion 2.2%
15 Colgate 1.5%
9 UCF 1.5%
15 Montana 1.4%
15 Bradley 1.4%
15 Abilene Christian 1.3%
16 G Webb 1.3%
8 VCU 1.1%
16 Iona 1.0%
16 FDU 1.0%
16 N Dakota St. 0.9%

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Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — its modern format — only four of 35 national champions were unranked to start the season. That’s about one in every nine years.

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