The Numbers Behind KILJ’s Bracket Challenge

Mount Pleasant, IA- The men’s March Madness is set to start at 11:15 am this morning with #8 Mississippi State facing off against #9 Michigan State to get the tournament rolling.

That game will also signify the official start of KILJ’s Bracket Challenge sponsored by The Press Box and Wiley’s Interior Furnishings and Design. Moreover, that game will also end many of hopes at a perfect bracket, which presented the idea to go through all 34 brackets and peruse the data.

So, without further ado here’s the stats no one asked for but still seemed interesting.

March Madness is known for its unpredictability and Cinderella stories, but most of the time the higher seeds win their matchups and that was apparent amongst our bracket submissions with an average of only 6.5 upsets in the first round or an upset in just 20% of the games. Last year saw 7 first round upsets.

Despite #15 Princeton and #16 FDU winning their first-round matchups last year, only two brackets picked a #15-seed to win, Long Beach and Western Kentucky, with both teams making it to the Sweet 16.

To stay on the theme of upsets, the most common upsets occurred in the #7 versus #10 matchup. #10 Drake was picked over #7 Washington State in 21 of the 34 brackets or 62% of the time and #10 Nevada was selected 20 times or 59% of the time against #7 Dayton.

The #11 seeds Oregon and New Mexico were each picked 14 times to pull off the upset with Grand Canyon advancing 12 times, James Madison 11 times, and NC State 10 times.

No one picked #16-seed to upset a #1-seed.

One bracket picked 14 first-round upsets, while another selected zero upsets. Six brackets had nine upsets, which was the mode.

Now, let’s take a look at the Final Four teams. UConn was a Final Four team in 91% of brackets with Houston a distant second with 62% of brackets putting them in the Final Four. Purdue was selected in 19 of the 34 brackets followed by Arizona, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

Iowa State did not get the benefit of the home-state advantage, being selected just seven times to advance to the Final Four. Now, there were two brackets that predicted two separate historical moments for March Madness.

One bracket had #11 NC State advance all the way to the Final Four, which would tie the record for the lowest seed to advance to the Final Four as 2021 UCLA being the last team to do so.

The other historical moment properly leads us to the most common championship matchups selected. Unsurprisingly, UConn, Houston, and Purdue dominated the matchups with UConn and Purdue squaring off for the championship in 8 of the brackets, while UConn and Houston faced off 7 times.

The next closest was Arizona versus Purdue and UConn taking on Marquette as these matchups were selected three times. UConn was selected to advance from the Final Four to the championship game in 20 of the 31 brackets.

Furthermore, UConn was the National Champion for 16 brackets or 47% of the total field. Purdue was next with five brackets picking them to be champions. Houston was picked a mere four times, while Iowa State, Kentucky, and Arizona was selected twice each.

North Carolina and Kansas were each picked once to win the championship. Leading us to a predicted historical moment, one bracket selected #10 Drake to upset everyone and win the National Championship.

This would not only be the Bulldogs’ second Final Four appearance but their first National Championship in program history. Furthermore, the Bulldogs would also be the lowest seed to ever make the championship game let alone win. That honor goes to four #8-seeds as Villanova in 1985 was the only #8-seed to win the big game.

So, those are the percentages and stats heading into KILJ’s Bracket Challenge and to leave you with one final stat: the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion to round down.