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Daniel Wilco | | April 5, 2019

Who the world picked to win in the Final Four

Relive the Michigan State Spartans' road to the Final Four

There are only three games left in the 2019 NCAA tournament, and chances are your bracket is very, very busted by now. Only 11.8 percent of all completed brackets in our Bracket Challenge Game even have their champion still alive.

But there are still plenty of brackets with a dog in the fight. We looked at all of them to see who they had winning in the Final Four and championship game.

MORE ON PICKS: Only .02 percent of people correctly predicted the 2019 Final Four

That exercise — looking over the millions of brackets in our game — showed us once again how ridiculously hard predicting this tournament is. 

Almost half of all completed brackets failed to get even one correct Final Four pick. Only 11.2 percent of all completed brackets managed to get at least two Final Four picks right.

Correct Final Four picks Percent
0 43.75%
1 45.07%
2 10.32%
3 0.84%
4 0.02%

Since the majority of brackets don't even have a pick left in these games, obviously these numbers aren’t going to add up to 100 percent, but let’s take a look anyways:

In the first semifinal — Virginia vs. Auburn — 18.51 percent of completed brackets picked the Cavaliers, while just 1.26 percent picked the Tigers.

For the second game — Michigan State vs. Texas Tech, 9.43 percent picked the Spartans, and 1.71 percent picked the Red Raiders.

The championship picks follow the same trends. 

Even Auburn alum/super-fan Charles Barkley didn’t predict the Tigers winning the tournament. Only 0.47 percent of all completed brackets picked Auburn to win their bracket — the lowest amount of any of the four remaining teams.

Team Picked to win title Percent of all brackets
Virginia 5.93%
Michigan State 4.72%
Texas Tech 0.68%
Auburn 0.47%

But we’ve already established that looking at the nation as a whole is not very good at the near-impossible task of predicting March Madness games. So, what about those who have risen above the rest this year?

Of the millions of brackets entered into our Bracket Challenge Game, only 0.02 percent managed to pick Michigan State, Texas Tech, Virginia, and Auburn in their Final Fours. 

Those people are obviously time travelers who came back to 2019 just to beat their friends’ brackets. So let’s use their premonition to our advantage and see who they say will win each semifinal.

PICKING ADVICE: How important is it to pick Final Four teams correctly?

Among those brackets, the favorite scenario (picked in 32.8 percent) is Michigan State beating Texas Tech and Virginia beating Auburn in the Final Four, with the Spartans beating the Cavaliers in the championship. If we pull back to the full corpus of completed brackets, just 0.007 percent of all brackets predict the final three games of the tournament playing out that way.

The least picked scenario sees Texas Tech beat Michigan State, Auburn beat Virginia, and then the Tigers beat the Red Raiders for the title. 

Championship scenario Percent of perfect
Michigan State beats Virginia 32.75%
Virginia beats Michigan State 22.49%
Michigan State beats Auburn 13.32%
Auburn beats Michigan State 7.42%
Texas Tech beats Virginia 6.33%
Virginia beats Texas Tech 9.61%
Texas Tech beats Auburn 4.59%
Auburn beats Texas Tech 3.49%


College basketball rankings: Even unranked teams find success in the NCAA tournament

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.

Only .025 percent predicted the 2021 Final Four teams in the Bracket Challenge Game

UCLA's upset of No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight turned what could have been a record-high number of perfect picks into a tiny number that went 4-for-4.

A huge majority of NCAA brackets have a No. 1 seed winning the 2021 championship

Here is how many brackets predicted each seed to win the national championship, from Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds through Drexel and the rest of the No. 16 seeds.
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