If you’re wondering about the prospect of a March Madness perfect bracket through the entire run of the NCAA tournament this year, consider this: It’s hard enough to get past the first two days with out a bust.
NCAA.com is tracking the 2017 tournament’s perfect brackets as long as they stay perfect, generally into the second day. Update: the 2017 tournament had 235 perfect brackets among six major games after two days. We’ll update this story as we’ll very likely have a bracket remain perfect beyond 34 games.
In the 2016 tournament, among major games with verified online brackets at NCAA.com, Bleacher Report, CBS, ESPN and Yahoo, the longest anyone went was 25 games to start the tournament. That’s well below the 2015 tournament’s reported (and verified) best, when one person in the ESPN online bracket game picked the first 34 games correctly, according to a story by ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell. The 34 straight is the longest a verified bracket from an online game has stayed perfect.
MARCH MADNESS GEAR: Get NCAA tournament gear at NCAA Championship store
This is the number we’re going with, but we acknowledge that in the history of brackets both online and traditional paper, there is at least decent chance the number is higher. The current bracket format has existed since 1985, and participation has grown to outrageous numbers. Estimates range from 60 Million to 100 Million overall. Accurate, comprehensive (and digital) record keeping and archiving has not existed for the past 30 years, but recently the various game providers have tracked official and verified brackets as the tournament progresses. Yahoo reported that in more than 18 years, it had only had one bracket go 32-for-32 in the first two days before it had 36 accomplish the feat in 2017.
Based on the reporting, we could not find verified brackets that have been perfect into the Sweet 16 (or 48 games) at all. There was a widely reported instance of a bracket that was perfect through two rounds in 2010, but there was no way to verify the bracket’s authenticity. It had been entered in an online game where picks could be altered between rounds, according to a Deadspin report at the time.
The 2015 ESPN 34-straight bracket was the only one that escaped the first two days perfect.
ESPN said that bracket was the best start to a tournament it had on record in 18 years of its game. The best bracket overall in 2015 was a Yahoo entrant that had an astounding 58 of 63 games (or lines) correct, said a Yahoo spokesperson in this FiveThirtyEight article. Last year, the bracket that stayed perfect the longest (25 games) barely finished in the top 20 percent, showing how far you can fall as the points in later rounds accumulate.