Quest for the Perfect Bracket

BACK TO Quest for the Perfect Bracket
basketball-men-d1 flag

Wayne Staats | | March 17, 2021

The most-picked March Madness champion every year since 2014, according to NCAA bracket data

These are the most popular bracket picks — and how they performed

Every year, No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NCAA bracket get most of the championship picks among Bracket Challenge Game players. But sometimes one team takes up so much attention that there's a sizable gap among the most-picked choices. Other years, BCG users spread out the selections.

Here's a look at the most picked Bracket Challenge Game championship winners, going back to 2014. We also list the champion and its percentage — if that winner wasn't the same as the most-chosen champ.

The most popular pick: Duke — 39.12 percent
The champ: Virginia — 5.86 percent

Tom Pennington/Getty Images Virginia celebrates is 2019 NCAA championship.

Duke seemingly had it all. The Blue Devils won the ACC tournament title, were 29-5, grabbed the No. 1 overall seed — and had Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and others. Add that all up and more than 39 percent of BCG players picked Duke to cut down the nets. The Blue Devils had close calls with No. 9 UCF and No. 4 Virginia Tech before falling to No. 2 Michigan State in an Elite Eight thriller.

Virginia, the ACC regular-season champ, went all the way on only 5.86 percent of BCG brackets. But one year after UVA lost to UMBC in the historic 16-over-1 shocker, the Cavaliers won their first national title.

The most popular pick (and champion): Villanova — 17.52 percent

Tom Pennington/Getty Images Villanova wins the 2018 NCAA title.

Virginia had the No. 1 overall seed at 31-2, but De'Andre Hunter broke his wrist in the ACC tournament and had to miss the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers' stay didn't last, however, with No. 16 UMBC's monumental upset leaving 16.46 percent of users without their champion in the tournament after the first round.

But Virginia wasn't even the most popular pick. That would be Villanova. The Wildcats, another No. 1 seed, dominated their opponents that year, winning all six NCAA tournament games by double digits.

MARCH MADNESS: Print out tour 2021 NCAA tournament bracket here


The most popular pick (and champion): North Carolina — 14.55 percent

Tom Pennington/Getty Images North Carolina's Theo Pinson

UNC was both the most popular pick and the eventual 2017 champion, but there was not much of a gap between the Tar Heels and other favorite BCG title selections. Here's how bunched up it was at the top, including what would be North Carolina's final opponent (Gonzaga):

  • North Carolina: 14.55 percent
  • Kansas: 12.44 percent
  • Villanova: 12.26 percent
  • Duke: 11.69 percent
  • UCLA: 11.14 percent
  • Gonzaga: 9.99 percent

TAKE A CHANCE: Here are the odds of having a perfect bracket


The most popular pick: Kansas — 24.87 percent
The champ: Villanova — 2.36 percent

Champion Villanova took down the most popular BCG pick, Kansas, in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks claimed the No. 1 overall seed, but they weren't the runaway favorite choice — Michigan State came in second. However, the No. 2 Spartans lost to No. 15 Middle Tennessee, disappointing nearly 22 percent of BCG players who had Tom Izzo and Michigan State winning it all.

The most popular pick: Kentucky — 46.57 percent
The champ: Duke — 10.54 percent

Joe Robbins | Getty Images Duke beat Wisconsin to win the 2015 NCAA title

With the undefeated Wildcats in the field, was there any doubt about their popularity here?

Kentucky started the season ranked No. 1 and never fell out of the top spot, picking up the No. 1 overall seed and going into March Madness 34-0. Four wins followed, but Wisconsin upset UK in the Final Four.

That Wisconsin team almost matched Duke on the floor and when it came to BCG picks — 10.69 percent of users chose the Badgers to win it all compared to Duke's 10.54 percent. But Duke won the title game 68-63 for Mike Krzyzewski's fifth title. 

The most popular pick: Florida — 26.04 percent
The champ: UConn — 0.23 percent

Getty Images UConn beat Kentucky to win the 2014 national championship

Here's the biggest surprise of them all, at least going back to 2014.

The Huskies were only a No. 7 seed and 26-8 when they took the court to face No. 10 Saint Joseph's to begin their tournament run. UConn won that one in OT before defeating No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 1 Florida and No. 8 Kentucky to win for the second time in four years. UConn was the No. 22 most popular champion pick in 2014.

Florida was the clear No. 1 pick in 2014, as Michigan State (13.30) was the only other BCG champion pick for more than 10 percent of players. Of the Gators' three losses that season, two came to UConn.

Presented by
Presented by
Presented by

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners