We've spent weeks debating bubble teams, conference champions and bracketology, but now that the 2022 men's NCAA tournament field has been revealed, it's time to enjoy your brackets.
Picking the right Final Four is a difficult task, especially with the depth of quality national championship contenders like Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas. Who are the most popular teams chosen as the public fills out their first brackets? What are the trends for underdogs and upsets so far?
Follow along as we provide daily updates on bracket trends during the 2022 Men's Tournament Challenge.
If you want to see a team-by-team breakdown of picks, check out our Who Picked Whom chart.
Friday recap; Saint Peter's does it again
No. 15 Saint Peter's beats No. 3 Purdue
First 15-seed ever to make an Elite 8 (1% of brackets had this predicted)
Gonzaga and Arizona were the two most popular picks to win the title. More brackets picked both Gonzaga and Arizona to lose in the first round (1.4%) than picked Saint Peter's to make the Elite 8
0.3% of brackets have Saint Peter's winning another game
48% of brackets have lost a Final Four team courtesy of this Saint Peter's run
In 9 days, Saint Peter's has beaten two of the 10 most popular picks to win the NCAA Title (Kentucky and Purdue)
The Peacocks entered the Tournament as a 150-to-1 longshot to win the East Region, something they are 40 minutes away from doing. For reference, those are the same odds the Detroit Lions and New York Jets currently have to win the Super Bowl
No. 1 Kansas pulls away late from No. 4 Providence
64.6% of brackets have Kansas in the Elite 8
42.5% of brackets have Kansas in the Final 4
A 1-seed has won each of the past four NCAA Tournaments (KU is the lone remaining 1-seed)
Six straight tournaments have featured at least one 1-seed in the finals
No. 8 North Carolina closes out No. 4 UCLA
7.2% of brackets have North Carolina in the Elite 8
0.1% of brackets had the North Carolina/Saint Peter's Elite 8 matchup happening
3.3% of brackets had both North Carolina and Duke in the Elite 8
0.8% of brackets have North Carolina and Duke meeting in the Final Four. Of those brackets that have that matchup occurring, 65.4% advanced Duke to the Title Game
No. 10 Miami controls No. 11 Iowa State
3.3 % of brackets have Miami in the Elite 8
1.6% of brackets had Kansas meeting Miami in the Elite 8
In seven of the past eight tournaments, we've had a team seeded 7 or worse reach the Final Four: Miami was picked to reach the Final Four in 1% of brackets
Thursday recap; Gonzaga and Arizona bow out
31,901 brackets are 4/4 in predicting Elite 8 teams thus far (for reference, there were 5 brackets of nearly 14.7 million last season that got all Elite 8 teams correct).
No. 4 Arkansas upsets No. 1 Gonzaga
8.3% of brackets advanced Arkansas to the Elite 8 (3.7% took it a step further to the Final 4)
Gonzaga was picked to win it all in 22.8% of brackets (most)
64.9% of brackets had either Gonzaga, Baylor or Kentucky advancing from the right side of the bracket to play in the finals. None of them will be playing in the second weekend, let alone the final game
Gonzaga lost in the Sweet 16 in 2016 and 2018... Villanova won the title both of those seasons
No. 2 Villanova handles No. 11 Michigan
41% of brackets advanced Villanova to the Elite 8 (17.4% took it a step further to the Final 4)
Villanova is 3-0 against the spread in this tournament (they went 1-2 ATS in their run to the Big East Tournament title)
No. 2 Duke advances past No. 3 Texas Tech
45.6% of brackets advanced Duke to the Elite 8 (17.2% took it a step further to the Final 4)
3.5% of brackets had Duke facing Arkansas in the Elite 8. Of those brackets, 63.7% picked Duke
No. 5 Houston controls No. 1 Arizona
14.2% of brackets advanced Houston to the Elite 8 (7.3% took it a step further to the Final 4)
That means a higher percentage of brackets had Houston losing in Round 1 (19.9%) than had them advancing to the Elite 8
11.3% of brackets picked Arizona to win it all (2nd most)
5.4% of brackets had Houston facing Villanova in the Elite 8
If chalk holds, the Final Four will be: Villanova, Duke, Kansas and Purdue
0.2% of brackets had that combination
That means that more brackets had Saint Peter's in the Final 4 (0.3%) than had what is now our chalkiest option
No. 5 Houston closes out No. 4 Illinois
This was a coin flip in terms of who brackets picked. The potential leverage spot for those that picked Houston comes next round... only 14.2% of brackets pushed the Cougars into the Elite 8
Last season, Illinois lost in the Round of 32 as the better seed in a region that Houston went on to win
No. 11 Iowa State tops No. 3 Wisconsin
10.1% of brackets had the Cyclones in the Sweet 16
This game wiped out the final nine brackets that were previously unblemished in terms of picking Sweet winners
More importantly, 9.4% of brackets had Wisconsin in the Final 4
You have to go all the way back to 2019 to find the last time Wisconsin was upset in the early going. In that season, the top seed from their region (Virginia) went on to win a National Title (Kansas fits that bill this season)
No. 10 Miami impresses from start to finish in win over No. 2 Auburn
8.8% of brackets had the Hurricanes in the Sweet 16
1.3% of brackets had Miami and Iowa State meeting in the Sweet 16
Of those brackets, 55.1% picked Miami to advance
Final Four pick percentage: Miami (1%) and Iowa State (0.7%)
Other odds and ends
The right side of your bracket has three double-digit seeds still alive (Miami, Iowa State and Michigan). 0.3% of brackets had all 3 of them playing past the first week.
We had no perfect Round 1's, but 13 brackets got all but 1 game
We had no perfect Round 2's, but 14 brackets got all but 1 game
Top seed Baylor dug out of a 25-point hole against North Carolina to force overtime, but they ultimately came up short and cratered plenty of brackets with them.
The Bears were picked to make the Sweet 16 in 78.3% of brackets and to make the final game in 10.4% of brackets
They were the 6th most popular title pick
There's plenty of basketball left to play, but the 30% of brackets that had a Baylor/Kentucky Elite 8 matchup need some chaos elsewhere.
No. 15 Saint Peter's cannot be stopped
2% of brackets had them advancing to the Sweet 16
0.4% of brackets had both Saint Peter's and North Carolina making the Sweet 16 in the East region
Take it one step further... 0.1% of brackets have them playing in the Elite 8
No. 11 Michigan beats Tennessee with a second half spurt
A higher percentage of brackets had Tennessee in the Final 4 (18.9%) than had Michigan in their Sweet 16 (13%)
1.1% of brackets had a Baylor/Tennessee title game... seemingly not a high percentage, but that's nearly 200,000 brackets
This, theoretically, opens up the path for a Villanova run to the Elite 8, something 41% of brackets projected
But should Ohio State upset 'Nova on Sunday and give us a Big-10 matchup in the Sweet 16, then we have chaos building: 2.3% of brackets predicted a Michigan/Ohio State meeting in the Sweet 16. The two teams split in the regular season (OSU won 3 of the 4 halves, EJ Liddell averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds in those games)
4 is the new 1?
Three No. 4 seeds advanced today in Arkansas, Providence and UCLA. At this point, what's going to stop them? We had 2,717 brackets put all three of them into the Final 4. Who are we to question that decision right now?
We just missed mass chaos in the final game of the night with Gonzaga. Someone should tell them that it's perfectly acceptable to play well in the first half of games, but they continue to figure it out. 94 brackets went a perfect 8-for-8 on Saturday.
If you're curious, because of the upsets in the East, a Purdue/Gonzaga game to reach the final is most likely based on remaining seeds, a matchup that 8.8% of brackets have (of people that have that matchup, 72.7% have Gonzaga advancing).
North Carolina upsetting Baylor is the second most impactful result of the men's tournament thus far, and it's the second most impactful result in the East region! Here's a look inside the numbers:
Picked to make the Sweet 16 in 78.3% of brackets, the Final Four in 28.1% of brackets, and the final game in 10.4% of brackets
6th most popular title pick
Plenty of basketball left to play, but the 30% of brackets that had a Baylor/Kentucky Elite 8 matchup need some chaos elsewhere
They were picked to win their first game in 66.2% of brackets
They were picked to make the Sweet 16 in 15.1% of brackets
They were picked to make the Elite 8 in 7.2% of brackets
No team has gained more win equity on off days during this tournament than the Boilermakers
With Baylor and Kentucky now out of the way, the 14.6% of brackets that have 3-seed Purdue emerging from the East Region are loving life
The Bruins were picked to advance to the Elite 8 in 28.3% of brackets, more than all other 4-seeds combined
North Carolina is playing great, but it's hard to argue that the path for UCLA didn't get easier with this result
Does the slipper fit?
Eight straight tournaments that have had a 5-seed or worse competing in the Final Four. There's no guarantee it happens this season or that if it does, it's in the East region, but with the No. 1 and 2 seeds eliminated, it's a conversation that needs to be had. Five-seed or worse teams who have made the Final Four since 2013:
2021: 11-seed UCLA
2019: 5-seed Auburn
2018: 11-seed Loyola Chicago
2017: 7-seed South Carolina
2016: 10-seed Syracuse
2015: 7-seed Michigan State
2014: 8-seed Kentucky
2013: 9-seed Wichita State
What's on tap for Saturday
Baylor vs. North Carolina
The field is down on Baylor compared to other 1-seeds, but 78.3% of brackets have them winning at least 2 games
The Bears (5.5-point favorites) have won seven straight NCAA Tournament games, prevailing by an average of 18.3 points per game
North Carolina's nine losses this season have come by an average of 16.9 points this season
Kansas vs. Creighton
Kansas' last NCAA Title came in 2008
2008: A team that had four players average double figures, led by Brandon Rush (career: 13.6 PPG) and won 9 of 11 games entering March Madness
2022: A team that has four players averaging double figures, led by Ochai Agbaji (career: 13.5 PPG) and won 9 of 11 games entering March Madness.
Tennessee vs. Michigan
Despite Michigan being favored in Round 1 (by Vegas, not by seeding), only 13% of brackets have them advancing the tournament's second week.
Providence vs. Richmond
Only 9.9% of brackets pegged these two meeting in Round 2 and of those brackets (68.4% of those brackets that did nail this matchup advanced Providence to the Sweet 16)
UCLA vs. St. Mary's
If there's going to be a 4-seed to make a run, UCLA is a popular choice:
UCLA to the Elite 8: 28.3%
All other 4-seeds combined: 26.2%
UCLA to the Final Four: 12.1%
All other 4-seeds combined: 11.5%
Murray State vs. Saint Peter's
Murray State is a big favorite... only 10.7% of brackets have them in the Sweet 16
2% of brackets have Saint Peter's in the Sweet 16
Arkansas vs. New Mexico State
New Mexico State is 40 minutes away from a Sweet 16 appearance, something only 5% of brackets forecasted (those 5% stand to gain serious ground on the competition... 41% of brackets had the team NMSU knocked off on Thursday -- UConn -- in that spot)
Arkansas could meet Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, a matchup that 42.4% of brackets saw coming (85.4% of brackets that picked that exact matchup advanced Gonzaga to the Elite 8)
Gonzaga vs. Memphis
After 20 minutes in their first game, Memphis (as a 3.5-point favorite) led by 19
After 20 minutes in their first game, Gonzaga (as a 22.5-point favorite) led by 2
Gonzaga was picked to win this region in 58.2% of brackets, making this a game worth staying up for
The search for a full perfect bracket will have to wait (at least) another year, as not a single user made it to the weekend flawless for a second consecutive year.
No. 11 Iowa State was the team to end the dream of perfection and they were the third double digit seed to qualify for the weekend in the West Region, joining Miami and Richmond. Upsets are fun, but stacking upsets in a single region is tough... only 3.4% of brackets correctly pushed all three of those teams through to the second round. 0.2% of brackets had enough confidence in this trio to put them all into the Sweet 16
No. 3 Wisconsin got there against No. 14 Colgate... barely. It was late on the East Coast, but as Johnny Davis got going, you could hear the collective exhale, as the majority of brackets (62.2%) have the Badgers in the Sweet 16.
No. 10 Notre Dame handled No. 6 Auburn, giving us a pair of seeding upsets in the middle of the West Region (also: No. 12 New Mexico State) Both looked like the real deal in their wins. Could they both advance to the Sweet 16? It's much more feasible now than it was a few days ago and that's something only 0.7% of brackets picked
No. 2 Villanova looked as good on the offensive end as anyone in the first two days. As a team, they achieved the pinnacle of efficiency: the 50-40-90 shooting split (50% from 2, 40% from 3 and 90% from the FT line). We are in a time of small samples, so why not overreact to this game? Only 17.4% of brackets picked the Wildcats to win the South Region... in doing so would require the second most popular champion pick (Arizona) to disappoint.
No. 7 Ohio State made it an early exit for Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago, giving us a power program Round 2 matchup against 2-seed Villanova. 80% of brackets that predicted this matchup advanced Villanova
Chalk held in the East Region with the exception of that little Kentucky loss Thursday night. What's that mean? If the top teams continue to advance in this portion, we'd be looking at a Baylor/Purdue matchup in the Elite 8... something that 15.5% of brackets projected
As intense as Thursday was and the sweat required for some of the top seeds today, 2022 was actually a "softer" season in terms of first round scoring. Consider this ...
The Upper Class (brackets that nailed at least 24 of the first 32 games, 75% hit rate)
The Middle Class (where most of us live, in the 19-23 correct pick range)
This could have an impact in a few weeks when we are crowning bracket champions. Most pools are back loaded with scoring, but given the popularity of some of the top teams and the increased accuracy this year, don't be surprised if we see more wire-to-wire pool winners this year than in year's past. Of course, a non 1-seed champion could change everything, but if you're sitting with Gonzaga or Arizona (the clear cut top tier in terms of champion pick percentage) as your champion, you better be moving your way up these standings sooner than later!
This year, 64.7% of brackets got 19 to 23 games right in the first round.
Last year, 73.7% of brackets got 19 to 23 games right in the first round.
7:30 p.m. EST Friday update
Through 24 games of the tournament (eight left on the schedule tonight), only two perfect brackets remain
The seeding upsets today have been minor (Miami and Notre Dame) but if you had both, you made some nice gains: 15.3% of brackets picked both of those games correctly
Shout out to the 0.3% of brackets that have at least 21 correct picks. They won't get the love of being "perfect," but to hit games at that rate is still super impressive!
Are you not entertained? We've got 16 games in the books and there was no shortage of great games and bracket compromising results... so let's take a step back and see what the first day of action meant to the ESPN bracket pool as a whole.
48.8% of brackets picked 8-10 games right, so as long as you're in that range, you're keeping pace with the field.
Thanks for Coming
No. 2 seed Kentucky
Upset was picked in 4.6% of brackets
This is the first 15-seed to beat a 2-seed in... 363 days. Oral Roberts beat Ohio State last season... in a region that had Baylor as it's top seed. Reminder: Baylor is the top seed in the East this season.
No. 5 seed Iowa
Upset was picked in 14.7% of brackets
The majority of brackets (52.6%) had both Kentucky and Iowa advancing to the Sweet 16
Not one, not two, but 101,618 brackets had a Kentucky vs. Iowa title game. Yes, that's only a drop in the bucket with over 17 million brackets submitted... but that's a tough pill to swallow
No. 5 seed UConn
Upset was picked in 19.8% of brackets
That dreaded 5-12 situation that we always hear about and still struggle to pick accurately. Only 4.8% of brackets had both New Mexico State and Richmond advancing to the second round
No. 1 seed Kansas
27-point win over Texas Southern
Kansas is the 3rd most popular champion, trialing only Gonzaga (whose game was tied with 12.5 minutes to play yesterday) and Arizona (plays today)
No. 1 seed Baylor
36-point win over Norfolk State
Despite being a 1-seed, Baylor was the 6th most popular champion, trailing 2-seeds in Kentucky and Duke.
No. 3 seed Tennessee
32-point win over Longwood
Tennessee was the most popular 3-seed picked to advance through every round of the tournament
No. 8 seed North Carolina
32-point win over Marquette
They've opened as a 5.5-point underdog against Baylor on Saturday. While it would be a decent upset, it wouldn't be completely off the board: 15.1% of brackets have the Tar Heels penciled into the Sweet 16
What's on Tap?
Auburn, Villanova, Purdue and Texas Tech are all scheduled to tip before 3 p.m. EST
All of those teams were popular Final Four picks (Auburn: 23.7%, Villanova: 17.4%, Purdue: 14.6%, Texas Tech: 10.6%)
Arizona heads the evening slate, as they were the second most popular champion pick
The Colgate/Wisconsin game is an interesting one. Either you really believe in Wisconsin or you don't. (11.9% of brackets have Colgate winning, while 27.1% of brackets have Wisconsin advancing to the Elite 8)
10 p.m. EST update, Kentucky goes down
There are upsets, and there are upsets. No. 15 Saint Peter's knocking off No. 2 Kentucky? That's an upset.
Pegged as 18.5-point underdogs entering the game, the Peacocks from Jersey City, NJ captured the heart of the nation with their improbable 85-79 win over the storied SEC program. It was the fourth-largest upset since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams.
Here are some of the many ways the UK loss impacted brackets.
Kentucky was the 6th most popular team to win their first round game
UK was the 4th most popular champion (more than 1-seed Baylor)
The Wildcats loss opens the path for 3-seed Purdue, the second most popular 3-seed picked to win it all
It also positions 7-seed Murray State as the seeding favorite to make the Sweet 16, something only 10.7% of brackets had penciled in
6:30 p.m. EST update, Richmond advanced past Iowa
The Marvel Universe was abuzz for this one. Richmond (representing "Spider-Man", the highest grossing movie of 2022 thus far) downed 5-seed Iowa (representing the Disney+ hit "Hawkeye"). While both were entertaining, the Spider-man box office numbers were overwhelming and guess what ... they overwhelmed on the basketball court (even if a missed call was critical in the final outcome)!
Iowa was advanced to the Sweet 16 in the majority of brackets and more often than six teams seeded higher than them (UCLA, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas and Providence).
As for Richmond, could this be the start of something special? Under 1% of brackets put them in the Elite 8 (0.97%), so an extended run certainly would impact your standings.
This result could have a few wider ranger implications ...
Providence will now be favored to reach the Sweet 16, something only 22.2% of brackets forecasted
Kansas has one fewer "high-end" team to potentially face on their way to glory. KU was the third-most popular pick to do all of the following: win their region (36%), advance to the title game (16.2%), win the title (7%).
No shortage of action left on this the first day of action, so stay tuned as the numbers refresh.
1 p.m. EST update, the ball is tipped
The time has come to put down your pencils and let the chips fall where they may! So where did we as an ESPN collection settle on picks?
What's in a seed?
The past four champions have all been #1 seeds (North Carolina, Villanova, Virginia and Baylor), one short of the longest run of 1-seed success in the modern era (1992-96). Pick your upsets early: we've only had one champion outside of the first three seed lines (2014 UConn) since Mike Bibby's 4-seeded Arizona Wildcats of 1997. Here is the champion pick distribution by seed this year:
No. 1 seed to win it all: 45.7%
No. 2 seed to win it all: 18.2%
No. 3 seed to win it all: 8.2%
For reference, here is what the distribution looked like last season:
No. 1 seed to win it all: 67.5%- (most popular: Gonzaga, 34.3%)
No. 2 seed to win it all: 13.4%
No. 3 seed to win it all: 5.5%
Take your best guess
From mid-November through mid-December, we had a different team atop the AP Top 25 in four consecutive weeks (Gonzaga, Duke, Purdue and Baylor) and we haven't exactly reached consensus:
2022: 6 teams have been picked to win the title in at least 4% of bracket
2021: Just the 4 1-seeds were picked to win the title in at least 4% of brackets
The 10 most popular picks to win it all:
Round 1 Notes
Last season, every 8-seed was picked to advance more often than the opposing 9-seed and it paid off with three 8-seeds prevailing. This season, three of the four 9-seeds were picked to advance (the lone exception: North Carolina).
Last season, no 12-seed was advanced in the majority of brackets, but all four of them were advanced in at least 21.5% of brackets. This season, Indiana is the most popular 12-seed (picked 26.4% of the time), the only 12-seed advanced in at least 21.5% of brackets.
The one-seed picked to win it's region (advance to the Final Four) most often: Gonzaga (49.2%)
The one-seed picked to advance to the Final Four least often: Baylor (24%)
The double digit seed picked to reach the Sweet 16 in the highest percentage of brackets: Virginia Tech (12.6%)
The five most popular double digit seeds to win their first round game:
Virginia Tech (44.2%)
Loyola Chicago (40.8%)
How many games should you aim to get right in these hectic first two days?
Last season, just 17.7% of brackets got 23+ first round games right. Getting 22 games right was what it took to be ahead of the majority of ESPN brackets through two days (35.9% of brackets hit that threshold).
Thursday 10 a.m. EST update:
Most Popular Champion
Differences in pick percentage from the snap shot we took after the first 24 hours
Gonzaga's title rate has dropped from 27.8% to 27.1%. Minor, but notable that those shifting off of Gonzaga have seemingly moved onto Arizona (started at 12.4%, now at 13.4%).
It's close, but Duke was more popular than Kentucky to win it all, now it's Kentucky over Duke.
Confidence has faded a bit in Providence. Initially, they were picked to advanced to Round 2 in 71.9% of brackets. That number has dipped to 68.9%.
Memories of Steph Curry seem to be circulating, as the pick rate for Davidson to win a game has jumped from 37.7% to 40.2%, among the biggest movers over the past two days.
Most popular champions by seed
1-seed: Gonzaga (27.1%) - All other 1-seed combined: 27.2%
2-seed: Kentucky (6.9%)
3-seed: Tennessee (4.2%)
4-seed: UCLA (2%) - More than double the rate of any other 4-seed
5-seed: Iowa (1.6%)
Most popular first round upsets by seed
10-seed: Loyola-Chicago (48.5%) - Three of the four 10-seeds have been advanced in over 40% of brackets.
11-seed: Michigan (55.9%) - Currently favored by 1 points despite the seeding difference.
12-seed: Indiana (30.9%) - Only 12-seed over 20%
13-seed: South Dakota State (31.1%) - Just a 2-point underdog at the moment
14-seed: Colgate (11.6%)
15-seed: Delaware (5.1%)
16-seed: Norfolk State (3.8%)
Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST Update:
Comparing out audience to our panel of experts:
Picked Gonzaga to win the West Region:
Picked Baylor to win the East Region
Picked Tennessee to win the South Region
Picked Auburn to win the Midwest Region
Picked Gonzaga to win the 2022 NCAA Title
Chris "The Bear" Fallica highlighted blue bloods seeing red, with Duke and Michigan State being the brand names that could struggle. What do our users think of this?
95.4% to advance into Round 2
77.6% to advance into the Sweet
16 46% to advance into the Elite 8
17.3% to advance into the Final 4
10.3% to advance into the Title Game
6.3% to win it all
59.9% to advance into Round 2
13.6% to advance into the Sweet 16
5.4% to advance into the Elite 8
1.6% to advance into the Final 4
0.7% to advance into the Title Game
0.4% to win it all
There are five seeding "upsets" being picked in the majority of brackets:
9-seed Memphis: 62.2% advanced to Round 2
11-seed Michigan: 55.9%
11-seed Virginia Tech: 52.8% T(hey are penciled into the Sweet 16 in 18.9% of brackets, no other team seeded 7 or worse has even a 15% rate.)
9-seed: TCU: 51.4%
9-seed Creighton: 50.9%
Tuesday, 8 p.m. EST Update:
Here are what your picks are looking like after two days:
Gonzaga (1-seed): 27.1%
Arizona (1-seed): 13%
Kansas (1-seed): 8.3%
Kentucky (2-seed): 6.7%
Duke (2-seed): 6.4% (With 2 of the top-5 winners coming out of the West Region, that would be the portion of the bracket that could cause mass chaos should an underdog prevail.)
Raise your hand if you've heard "yea, those teams are great, but I can't pick ALL the favorites" over the past 48 hours. So what are people doing if they aren't picking the top seeds? Here are the top 4 picks that are not 1-seeds to reach each of the listed rounds:
Elite Eight: (the four 1-seeds rank 1-2-3-4 in Elite Eight pick percentage)
Kentucky (2-seed): 53.5%
Auburn (2-seed): 51.9%
Duke (2-seed): 46%
Tennessee (3-seed): 42.5%
Kentucky (2-seed): 30.4%
Auburn (2-seed): 22.8%
Tennessee (3-seed): 19.1%
Duke (2-seed): 17.2%
Kentucky (2-seed): 12.5%
Duke (2-seed): 10.4%
Auburn (2-seed): 10.3%
Tennessee (3-seed): 10%
Kentucky (2-seed): 6.7%
Duke (2-seed): 6.4%
Auburn (2-seed): 4.3%
Tennessee (3-seed): 4.2%
Favorite, but not chalk
If you're looking to pick a favorable seed while not picking a popular champion, there are four teams seeded four or better being picked to win it all in less than 1.5% of brackets:
Providence (4-seed): 0.3%
Arkansas (4-seed): 0.8%
Illinois (4-seed): 1%
Wisconsin (3-seed): 1.3%
The most common double digit seeds penciled into the Sweet 16.
Virginia Tech (11-seed): 18.9% (They rank as the 23rd most popular Sweet 16 pick overall. That may not sound like a high ranking, but consider that it's a higher percentage than a few high profile programs that found their way onto a better seed line, like Texas, North Carolina, and Michigan State.)
Michigan (11-seed): 12.5%
Loyola Chicago (10-seed): 10.8%
Iowa State (11-seed): 9.8%
Prior to tip, 22.9% of brackets currently have the winner of Indiana and Wyoming winning their Thursday meeting with Saint Mary's. That rate currently makes them the most popular 12-seed to make it to the weekend
Monday, 10 p.m. EST Update:
53.7% of brackets have a 1-seed winning it all (last season: 67.5%)
Gonzaga: 27.8% (sat at 34.5% in the 4 hours following the bracket release)
Arizona: 12.4% (These two teams accounted for 44.2% of the champion picks through 4 hours and while that number has dipped, they seem to be establishing themselves as the top tier of title picks)
The most popular non-1-seeds to cut down the nets
Much of the early talk has been about fading the Big 10 as a whole and people seem to be putting their brackets where their mouths are:
Wisconsin: despite having one of the best players in the country and a Big 10 regular season crown, they rank 14th in percentage of champion picks (1.2%)
Illinois: eliminated in the majority of brackets before the Sweet 16 (gone before then in 52.9% of brackets)
Purdue: the least picked 3-seed to reach the Sweet 16 (63%)
Ohio State: the least picked 7-seed to win Round 1 (51.5%)
Seeding is nothing but a number
As noted by Keith Lipscomb: Not only have No. 6 seeds won at least three of the four meetings just once in the past seven tourneys, but since 2010, they have a losing record against No. 11s (21-23). First round pick rates for 11-seeds thus far:
Michigan (over Colorado State: 53.3% (This is where people seem to be optimistic in a Big 10 school!)
Virginia Tech (over Texas): 51.3%
Iowa State (over LSU): 37%
Even without a clear team, the Rutgers/ND winner has been blindly advanced past Alabama in 27.1% of brackets)
Don't call it an upset
Notable pick rates among teams highlighted in our annual Giant Killers piece:
No. 13-seed Vermont (over Arkansas): 19.9% - Giant Killer upset potential: 36%
No. 13-seed South Dakota State (over Providence): 26.3% - Giant Killer upset potential: 40%
No. 14-seed Colgate (over Wisconsin): 10% - Giant Killer upset potential: 18%
Monday, 3 p.m. EST update
Popular tournament champions:
Popular first-round upsets (double-digit seeds):
11-seed Michigan: 42.1%
11-seed Virginia Tech: 41.9%
10-seed Loyola-Chicago: 37.9%
10-seed Miami: 33.3%
11-seed Iowa State: 30%
Consensus winners of the 8-9 games
9-seed Memphis (over Boise State)
8-seed North Carolina (over Marquette)
8-seed San Diego State (over Creighton)
8-seed Seton Hall (over TCU)
Last season, chalk prevailed in terms of the championship matchup as two of the top three most common teams picked to win it all advanced to the season's final game (Gonzaga and Baylor). The Bears prevailed, something 10.4% of brackets nailed. But it was far from a chalky month of madness.
No. 1 seed Illinois was the second most popular champion (15.2%) in brackets and was picked to win its region by the majority (51.8%), but the Illini led for exactly 0 seconds of their second-round loss to 8-seed Loyola-Chicago.
No. 11 seed UCLA required overtime in the play-in game. The Bruins then advanced to the Final Four (winning three of those four games by 10-plus points) before losing on the miracle Jalen Suggs buzzer-beater in overtime. Only 34% of brackets had UCLA winning a single game, and under 1% (0.9%) had UCLA in the Final Four.
To stay ahead of the field last season, these were the number of correct picks your bracket needed through each of the first three rounds:
Round 1: 22 of 32 games (35.9% of brackets accomplished this)
Round 2: 8 of 16 games (29.8% of brackets accomplished this)
Round 3: 4 of 8 games (33.1% of brackets accomplished this)