The chase for the perfect March Madness bracket will have to wait another year. Again.
In a men’s tournament that saw a 2 and a 4 seed lose on Day 1, only a relative handful of brackets were still intact in the biggest contests when 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson took the floor against Purdue. The Knights stunned the top-seeded Boilermakers Friday night, sending the remaining perfect brackets into trash cans everywhere.
On the CBS Sports site, 0.0003% of brackets were perfect through the eight early Friday games, according to Jared Shanker, the network’s senior director of digital communications. A few hours later, the network tweeted that “March is for busted brackets” in describing the goose egg.
Consider that 98.7% of CBS brackets selected Purdue to defeat FDU while just 0.4% picked FDU to reach the Sweet 16. The network said 38.4% had Purdue in the Final Four and 8.8% had the Boilermakers winning the national championship.
No perfection for ESPN’s Tournament Challenge bracket game, either; only 22 brackets out of more than 20 million filled out were still perfect earlier Friday and they vanished as the games wrapped up.
Ditto for NCAA March Madness. None left, out of unspecified millions.
Victories by double-digit seeds Princeton, Penn State and Furman on Thursday did particular damage. Only 1.4% of ESPN’s brackets had all three teams making it out of the first round, and only 0.1% had them surviving the weekend. Fairleigh Dickinson delivered the final blow.
A University of Illinois professor who runs an analytics website said Friday he thinks the transfer portal has hurt some power conference schools in the NCAA Tournament.
Changes brought on by an increasingly active portal have diminished the cohesiveness within some marquee programs, said Sheldon Jacobson, who operates the site BracketOdds. Lower-seeded teams from mid-major conferences are more likely to have a core group of players who have been together three or four years.
Seven No. 15 seeds have won at least one game over the past 11 years, including each of the last three NCAA Tournaments for the first time. The latest of course, was Princeton over Arizona this week. And No. 13 Furman topped No. 4 Virginia in another big upset — even before FDU ousted Purdue.
“So although it looks like, ”Wow, we have these big upsets,′ statistically speaking, it is not that unusual,” Jacobson said. “There’s not much difference between a five, six or seven and a 10, 11 or 12. Surely, the five, six and seven are going to win more often, but not that much more often statistically speaking.”
Jacobson said a day of upsets often leads to a predictable set of results the following day. Much of Friday played out that way, until the FDU-Purdue game.
Looking ahead to the Final Four, Jacobson said the averages indicate at least one of the teams usually comes from outside the top five seeds in each region. Four No. 8s have reached the Final Four, and five No. 11s have made it.
“This data says that, yeah, you want one or two No. 1s,” Jacobson said “You probably want a No. 2 also — sorry, Arizona — but after that, you want anything between a three and 11, and it’s pretty much of a crapshoot.
“All the sports pundits say, ‘I can’t imagine any of the ones losing.’ I guarantee they’re going to lose. In fact, I guarantee two of them are going to lose and maybe three before we get to the Final Four.”