It’s that time of year again. College football is over, we’re reaching the midway point of the basketball season and you’re already wondering what your March Madness bracket will look like come April.
Remember last year? Upsets and buzzer-beaters probably played havoc with your bracket in 2016. But, on average, 2016 wasn’t that bad for most bracket-pickers. According to data pulled from all brackets in the Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge — the official bracket game of the NCAA Tournament — the average score from 2016 was 68.17 Considering 2013’s average was 69.97, and 2014’s was 60.14, it was a relatively ho-hum year.
It certainly wasn’t 2015, when the average bracket scored better than 83 points. (We’ll get to that later.) And let’s not forget, that’s just the average: The winner last year chalked up 171 points, a mere 21 from a perfect score and more than 100 points better than average.
Luckily, last year wasn’t 2011, either, when the average score plummeted to just a tad over 53 points — a long, long way from perfection.
As a scoring referesher, this is how our bracket works. Players are scored on each winner they pick. The points climb in each round, like this:
|Round 1||Round 2||Sweet Sixteen||Elite Eight||Final Four||Championship|
|Points received per correct winner||1||2||4||8||16||32|
Nobody, ever, picks every game correctly. Last year, a player was spot-on for the first 25 games — and then Stephen F. Austin took down West Virginia. That means that bracket didn’t even reach the second round before busting. In 2014 and 2015, someone got a bit closer to making it through the first round, predicting 31 winners correctly before busting.
Still, no one has made it to the second round without an incorrect selection in the last six years of our online challenge.
Picking the Final Four can be daunting. Fewer than 1 percent of players last year picked all Final Four teams (eventual champ Villanova, Oklahoma, North Carolina and 10th-seeded Syracuse). Not one player picked all four in 2011, when eventual champion Connecticut (a No. 3 seed), Kentucky (4), title-game loser Butler (8) and VCU (11) played in Indianapolis. That’s a big reason the average score was so low that year.
|Year||Average Bracket Score|
In 2013, no one got all the semifinal teams correctly. Louisville, Wichita State, Syracuse and Michigan made their way to Atlanta. While top-seed Louisville was probably the easiest selection of the four. The rest were much longer shots. Wichita State reached the Final Four that year for only the second time in program history. Syracuse hadn’t made it that far since they won the National Championship in 2003. Michigan was returning for the first time since 1993. Michigan and Syracuse were No. 4 seeds. Wichita State was a No. 9.
|BRACKET CHALLENGE GAME|
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The “easiest” bracket of the last six years was 2015. A whopping 1.6 percent of people correctly predicted the Final Four teams that year. Wisconsin, which had made it to the tournament in each of the past 14 seasons; Kentucky, unbeaten entering the tournament; Duke, a 12-time Final Four participant; and Michigan State, in the semifinals for the seventh time in 18 seasons, advanced to Indianapolis. It was the first time since 2009 that multiple first seeds made it to the Final Four. Only Michigan State (a seventh seed) did not have the top seed in its region.
Filling out a bracket is easy. Filling out a good one is not. What will March Madness bring in 2017? How far will your bracket go?