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March Madness: Epic Upsets Destroy All 17.3 Million ESPN Users’ Brackets

A string of stunning upsets and wild finishes in this year’s NCAA March Madness men’s basketball tourney have officially left a grand total of zero brackets perfect in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge game.

The finishing blow came Friday, after supreme underdog U. of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) became the only No. 16 seed in tournament history to defeat a No. 1 team, the Virginia Cavaliers — busting the only 24 perfect picks up until that point among ESPN’s 17.3 million players. Only 3.4% of all users had picked UMBC to take down Virginia.

In another bracket-busting upset, Florida State (No. 9) defeated No. 1 Xavier in their Sunday night Round of 32 matchup. This year marks only the fourth time that two No. 1 seeds failed to advance to the Sweet 16 since the NCAA expanded the tourney in 1985 to 64 teams (from 53 the year prior).

With the Sweet 16 teams set, ESPN said just three brackets out of the 17.3 million picked 15 out of 16 winners correctly, and none got all 16 correct. Meanwhile, 62,559 of ESPN Tournament Challenge players incorrectly predicted all 16 games. First-round March Madness surprises had already punctured millions of brackets, with just 0.036% of total ESPN Tournament Challenge brackets still perfect after the first half of the Round of 64 games concluded Thursday.

The high fan engagement ESPN is seeing for March Madness demonstrates that the TV-centric programmer doesn’t need to have broadcast rights to catch wind in its digital sails from major sporting events.

To keep hoops viewers coming back, ESPN launched the “Tournament Challenge Second Chance” game, letting anyone choose winners for the remaining 15 men’s tournament games and enter for a chance to win a grand prize of a $5,000 Amazon Gift Card. The contest is open through Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m. ET.

Analytics firm App Annie has projected that during 2018 March Madness, Americans will spend a collective 11 million hours on four apps — NCAA March Madness, CBS Sports, ESPN Tournament Challenge and Yahoo Fantasy Sports — on Android alone.

Pictured above: Xavier forward Tyrique Jones (right) fouls Florida State U. guard CJ Walker during the second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Florida State defeated No. 1 seed Xavier 75-70.

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