Oakland’s win over Kentucky crushes millions of March Madness brackets

AS VEGAS (AP) — Kentucky's 80-76 loss to Oakland on Thursday night didn't just end a bunch of perfect brackets. It all but ruined many when it comes to the big picture.

The third-seeded Wildcats were picked in 95% of brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge to beat the 14th-seeded Golden Grizzlies. What's more, 74.21% had Kentucky making the Sweet 16, 28.84% reaching the Final Four and 6.5% winning the national championship.

Players on the Kentucky bench watch late in the second half of the team's college basketball game against Oakland in the first round of the men's NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 21, 2024. Oakland won 80-76. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Kentucky's exit erased a lot of perfect brackets, and by the end of the first full day of the NCAA Tournament, only 1,825 remained at ESPN.

March Madness Live, the NCAA's official site, reported only 0.005% of brackets were flawless. The number at CBS was 0.09% before the conclusion of the day's last games.

Those having No. 8 seed Mississippi State and No. 6 seed BYU advance out of the first round also took big hits. Each school was predicted to get through the first round in more than 9 million ESPN brackets.

Mississippi State lost 69-51 to Michigan State, and BYU was beaten 71-67 by Duquesne.

A record 22.6 million brackets were filled out on ESPN’s site, up 15% over last year.

UConn was named the champion on 32.3% of brackets submitted on CBS' site, far away the most popular choice. Purdue was next at 12.3%, followed by Houston at 11.9% and North Carolina at 8.9%.

All four are No. 1 seeds, and at 3.8% are the most likely Final Four, according to the brackets. The next closest at 2% includes No. 2 seed Arizona in place of North Carolina out of the West Region.

Mountain West tournament champion New Mexico, the 11 seed in the West, was the most popular double-digit pick to advance to the Sweet 16 at 14%.

UConn also was the favorite in the ESPN Tournament Challenge at 24.7%, followed by Houston at 13.6% and Purdue at 10.1%.

Sheldon Jacobson, who runs the BracketOdds website, said most people don't take the proper approach to filling out their brackets, choosing games from the first round to the championship game.

“Pick the best team you like in each of the regions and then build your bracket from there,” Jacobson said. “When you do that, you're actually eliminating some of the risk of making mistakes in the other parts of the bracket. It's very counterintuitive, but that's what our research paper showed.”

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