The longest bracket an NCAA has ever stayed perfect

The longest (verifiable) streak of correct picks in an NCAA tournament bracket to start the beloved March Madness tournament is 49, a mark that was established in 2019.

An Ohio man correctly predicted the entire 2019 NCAA Tournament to the Sweet 16, something we haven’t seen in years of tracking publicly verifiable online March Madness brackets in all major games.

Here’s how long brackets have survived since 2014.

2024

The perfect final men’s bracket almost made it past the first round, but the victory of the No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 TCU swept the bottom bracket in the 31st game of the tournament. The final bracket — called “Medalstick 84’s Picks 7” — was on ESPN’s game.

2023

The last verifiable perfect NCAA men’s bracket came down in 2023 when No. 16 FDU stunned No. 1 Purdue – just the second time a 16 beat a 1 in men’s history. This came in the 25th game.

2022

In 2022, the entire bracket was destroyed on the first Friday of the tournament, when state No. No. 11 Iowa defeated No. 6 LSU, 59-54. That’s when this bracket — created by ESPN user “Bekins24” — got busted.

2021

In 2021, multiple monumental reversals destroyed all remaining perfect brackets on the 28th game. This of course follows 2020, when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the NCAA tournament.

2019

Prior to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the longest streak we had seen in a March Madness bracket was 39 games, accomplished in 2017.

Gregg Nigl then shattered that record with his briefly famous “center lane” bracket in the Capital One NCAA March Madness Challenge, which correctly predicted the first 49 games of the 2019 tournament before screwing up in game 50 , when No. 3 Purdue beat no. 2 Tennessee 99-94 in overtime of Game 2 in the Sweet 16.

Nigl, a neuropsychologist from Columbus, Ohio, became the first verified bracket ever to advance to the Sweet 16.

With more than three decades of online and paper brackets to sift through (the current format has been around since 1985) and an estimated 60 million to 100 million brackets filled out each year, it’s quite possible that someone, somewhere has better. Determining an official record is made even more difficult by the fact that online gaming has only recently begun comprehensive record keeping.

We have closely tracked approximately 20 to 25 million online brackets per year in major games since 2016 using public leaderboards in combination with live reporting and information gathering with those games. Before 2016, we relied on reports from those games as well as online archives to get the best information available.

Until Nigl, we couldn’t find any verified brackets that were perfect in the Sweet 16 at all. There was a widely reported case of a bracket that was perfect through two rounds in 2010, but there was no way to verify the authenticity of brackets. It was introduced in an online game where picks could be changed between rounds according to a Deadspin report at the time.

Gregg Nigl’s 2019 NCAA bracket is perfect through the first two rounds.

Here’s where we stood in each of the previous years:

2018

No perfect NCAA bracket lasted into the first round Friday night, thanks to UMBC’s historic 16-1 rout of Virginia. Of the millions of brackets we tracked, 25 were perfect in the first 28 games of the tournament, but UMBC’s win in Game No. 29 eliminated them all.

2017

We saw an incredible 39 games picked to start the tournament, a number that was the most on record so far in 2019. The record bracket, entered in the Yahoo game, was the only bracket to go 37 games unscathed and managed 39 straight picks before Iowa State’s comeback against Purdue handed the team its first loss of the tournament.

2016

The longest streak anyone went this year was 25 games. With Stephen F. Austin’s win over West Virginia on Friday night, the last remaining perfect bracket of the NCAA Tournament came crashing down. A 15-2 upset (Middle Tennessee over Michigan State) made this a tough year for the bracket.

2015

This was another best year, as a group in ESPN’s online bracket game correctly picked the first 34 games, according to a story by ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell. ESPN said in 2016 that his 2015 group was the best start to a tournament he had recorded in his 18 years of playing.

2014 (and earlier)

Prior to 2017, the longest perfect streak streak was 36, according to Yahoo! Sports. In 2014, Brad Binder went 36 for 36 to start the tournament. Yahoo! Sports reported that Binder’s bracket was the only time he had a perfect bracket that went to the second round in his other 18 years of hosting a game.

In the 2019 tournament, the relative predictability (top seeds winning) of the event led to an abnormally high number of perfect brackets surviving the first round. We tracked nearly 25 million brackets since launch, across six major online games, including the Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge here at NCAA.com. Of those, 15 were perfect after the first 32 games of the tournament.

Saturday narrowed that field a bit more, and with games on NCAA.com, CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo!, only two March Madness brackets remained perfect in the 40 games that will begin Sunday — Nigl and a bracket on Yahoo.

The brackets disagreed on the fourth game of the day – Texas Tech-Buffalo. When Texas Tech won, it left only Nigl’s “central road” bracket as the only perfect March Madness bracket. That bracket survived multiple scares on Sunday, including Tennessee’s overtime win and Duke’s upset over UCF.

And after a runaway Gonzaga victory to start the Sweet 16, the midtown group suffered its first loss, as Purdue defeated Tennessee 99-94 in overtime in the 50th game of the tournament. This streak of 49 straight games will be very difficult to top in the future.

The odds of a perfect 63-game NCAA bracket can be as low as 1 in 9.2 quintillion — though those are perfect bracket odds if every game were a 50-50 coin flip. If you factor NCAA men’s basketball lore into the formula, the odds of picking a perfect bracket can be as high as 1 in 28 billion, according to the late DePaul professor Jeff Bergen.

Bergen estimated that if every person on the planet of 7.5 billion started filling out one bracket per minute, it would take over 2,000 years to fill the 9.2 quintillion.

Longest surviving bracket
YEAR Broken round The number of games is correct
2024 The first round 30
2023 The first round 24
2022 The first round 27
2021 The first round 27
2019 Sweet 16 49
2018 The first round 28
2017 The second round 39
2016 The first round 25
2015 The second round 34
2014 The second round 36

Dan Jepperson, Mike Szahaj and Daniel Wilco contributed to this report

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