March has again descended into madness — with first-round upsets in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament putting the hurt on millions of fans’ brackets from the get-go.
After the first 16 games of the Round of 64 concluded on Thursday, just 6,306 brackets remained perfect in the ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge game. That’s 0.036% of the 17.3 million total brackets entered.
The biggest bracket-busting upset: Arizona, the No. 4 seed in the South Region, was soundly defeated by No. 13 Buffalo — and Arizona had been picked to win the whole tournament by 4.9% of all ESPN bracket players. Only 10% picked a Buffalo win against the Arizona Wildcats.
In addition, No. 11 Loyola-Chicago defeated No. 6 Miami on a buzzer-beater, also in the South Region. Just 36% of ESPN’s users predicted Miami would lose in the first round.
ESPN is promoting its March Madness digital fan-engagement even though the sports programmer doesn’t have broadcast or media rights to the live games. Those are held jointly by CBS and Turner, which is carrying the games on TBS, TNT and TruTV. NCAA March Madness games also are available via streaming, mostly to authenticated pay-TV subscribers.
Meanwhile, for the 2018 tourney, the University of Michigan has been most socially engaged team so far followed by West Virginia University, according to marketing-analytics firm 4C Insights. Michigan so far has had 323,847 engagement across Facebook and Twitter, followed by WVU (175,652), Duke University (172,676), Purdue University (135,051) and the University of Tennessee (130,377).
Moving into the second round, according to ESPN, 47.5% of brackets correctly predicted an Alabama-Villanova matchup in the East Region; only 4.9% predict an upset by No. 9 Alabama over No. 1 seed Villanova.
Also in the East Region, 41.3% of participants predict that No. 3 Texas Tech will beat No. 6 Florida in the Round of 32 and 26.2% pick Florida to prevail against Texas Tech.
No. 5 Kentucky held off No. 12 Davidson to advance in the South Region, keeping title hopes for the Wildcats alive and the 2% of players who picked them to win it all. Kentucky is one of just 13 schools picked to win the title in more than 0.9% of brackets, and the only one of those that is not a top-four seed.
Pictured above: Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) reaches for a loose ball during a first-round game against Buffalo in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, in Boise, Idaho. Buffalo won 89-68.