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Wayne Staats | | March 24, 2021

Not a single NCAA bracket — out of millions — predicted this Sweet 16

The 2021 Sweet 16 teams, ranked by Andy Katz

No one's perfect.

Not only did all verifiably perfect brackets bust on only game 28 — the second day of the first round — no bracket out of millions went 16-for-16 in picking the Sweet 16 teams, based on public data. This is out of the five major online games: Bracket Challenge Game, ESPN, Yahoo, CBS and Sports Illustrated. The best we found are two on ESPN's public leaderboard that have 15 of 16 correct with 300 out of a possible 320 points. There is an extremely unlikely chance that a bracket missed on every pick outside the Sweet 16 teams and isn't on the leaderboard. We asked ESPN to confirm and will update this article if we hear back.

One of these ESPN brackets is called "Sanders175 4" and this one had all Sweet 16 teams except for Ohio State. The other is "Lucenda" and missed on Iona. That's right. This bracket had two No. 15 seeds in the Sweet 16.

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But in a sign that shows just how far we have to go yet in the tournament, though these two brackets both have 15 of the last Sweet 16, they match on only two Final Four teams — Gonzaga and Houston. In another fun twist, neither has Gonzaga winning the title. "Sanders175 4" has Baylor topping Gonzaga and "Lucenda" thinks Michigan will beat Villanova.

Here's a look at the two brackets:

ESPN's Lucenda bracketThis ESPN bracket has 15 of 16 Sweet 16 teams.
ESPN's Sanders175 4 bracketThis bracket missed only Ohio State in its Sweet 16 picks.

The best in the Bracket Challenge Game were three BCG brackets out of millions with 14 correct Sweet 16 picks:

  • One missed picking No. 1 Illinois and No. 7 Florida, with Houston beating Florida State for the title
  • One missed picking No. 5 Tennessee and No. 14 Abilene Christian, with Loyola Chicago beating Michigan for the title
  • One missed picking No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Oklahoma State, with Baylor beating Gonzaga for the title

You can look at the BCG leaderboard here.

Most BCG bracket correctly predicted less than half of the Sweet 16 field, with a plurality hitting on only seven.

Here's a look:

Correct Sweet 16 picks Percentage
14 0.000158
13 .0014
12 .023
11 .209
10 1.39
9 5.98
8 15.69
7 27.60
6 18.52
5 9.46
4 3.69
3 1.31
2 0.52
1 0.56
0 15.05

Not surprisingly, No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga was the most-picked Sweet 16 selection. The Bulldogs made it this far on more than 94 percent of BCG brackets, well ahead of Michigan (85.74 percent) and Baylor (83.97 percent).

PREVIEW: Looking at the unlikely and unpredictable Sweet 16

In all, five Sweet 16 teams were picked on better than 75 percent of brackets: Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor, Houston and Alabama.

But there's a significant drop after those. Florida State was the sixth-most popular at 56.25 percent. And only seven were this far on half of the brackets, with the eighth-most popular Villanova at "only" 41.34 percent of BCG brackets.

Much like Gonzaga would be an obvious answer to the most-picked question, you also probably don't need to look at the bracket very long to come up with the team that was least-picked that marched to the Sweet 16.

That would be Oral Roberts, only the second No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16 in NCAA tournament history, following 2013 Florida Gulf Coast.

But the Golden Eagles come in a little over one percentage point ahead of another fellow Cinderella, No. 12 Oregon State. ORU reached the Sweet 16 in only 2.05 percent of BCG brackets; Oregon State made it to that round in only 3.22 percent.

Team Percent picked to Sweet 16
Gonzaga 94.34
Michigan 85.74
Baylor 83.97
Houston 81.28
Alabama 77.76
Florida State 56.25
Arkansas 55.15
Villanova 41.34
USC 25.69
Creighton 24.87
Oregon 13.48
Syracuse 11.19
UCLA 7.18
Loyola Chicago 7.12
Oregon State 3.22
Oral Roberts 2.05

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