Best bracket ever filled out

Best bracket ever filled out DEFAULT

This 9-year-old Reno resident has the nation's best NCAA Tournament bracket

(Update: Anderson ended up correctly picking 58 out of the 63 NCAA Tournament games. For the full story on his improbable bracket, click here.)

Grant Anderson, a fourth-grader at Reno's Nick Poulakidas Elementary, was bummed that last year's NCAA Tournament was canceled.

He had filled out brackets in 2018 and 2019 and was eagerly looking forward to doing the same last season. But with the tournament canceled due to the pandemic, Anderson was especially pumped for this year's Big Dance. So excited he filled out seven brackets, taking some long shots along the way.

Among his seven brackets, Anderson had high seeds such as Utah State, Oregon State and Clemson winning it all. But it was the first bracket Anderson filled out, one that was sent to him by his aunt, that has proven to be gold.

Despite all the chaos of this year's NCAA Tournament, with upsets galore, Anderson has a nearly perfect bracket heading into the Sweet 16. In fact, it's likely the 9-year-old from Reno has the nation's best bracket. Anderson's bracket, which he titled "Grant A," correctly picked the first 47 games. His only miss came in the last game of the first two rounds as Anderson had Kansas beating USC (the Trojans pulled off the upset, 85-51).

"Three or four years ago, I had him pick the games and got him into it because it's a fun time of year," said Anderson's mom, Tish, who played basketball for Nevada in the early 2000s. "He was super into it this year and he was kind of initiating it this year. We had been tracking a couple of different brackets, and Monday night my husband was checking them with him during dinner and said, 'Hey, did you see this?' He said, 'Look at this. Is this for real?' I was looking at it when the USC-Kansas game was going on and said, 'Holy cow! This is incredible.'"

At that point, Grant's entire bracket was green. He had No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the Sweet 16. He had No. 12 Oregon State advancing there, too, along with No. 11s Syracuse and UCLA and No. 8 Loyola Chicago. It seems too good to be true. But the Anderson family shared their CBS Sports log-in information with Nevada Sports Net, which verified the bracket was submitted before the tournament and is 100 percent legitimate.

"I had no idea," Grant said of his almost perfect bracket. "I just looked a couple of days later and it was all green." said it was tracking all perfect brackets via Bracket Challenge Game, ESPN, CBS, Yahoo and Sports Illustrated, writing that every bracket in the nation had busted by the 28th game of the tournament. But Anderson's bracket was still perfect through 47 games, the odds of that being unfathomably low. In 2019, the longest run of perfection went through game 49, per

The reason Anderson's bracket was not public for the NCAA's search was because he picked his games on a private bracket set up on CBS Sports that was sent to him by his aunt. Using his family tablet, Anderson created his own account and made his selections.

"My aunt sent a thing out for the bracket and I joined that one," Anderson said.

While there are several strategies for making NCAA Tournament picks, some relying on mascots and others on team colors, Anderson said he researched the games before making his selections. There's also a lot of luck involved, of course, as Grant's best score in his other six brackets was 27 correct games out of 48.

"I looked at what place they're in and how many games they won and how many games they lost," Anderson said of his rationale for picks. "And then I checked the difference between the teams. If one was a little bit higher, then I usually picked that team."

So, how rare is it for Anderson's bracket to be so close to perfection? According to, the odds of getting 14 out of this year's Sweet 16 teams correct is 0.000158 percent. The odds of getting 15 out of 16 right, as Grant did, is so microscopic didn't even measure that probability.

The remainder of Anderson's bracket seems feasible, too.

His Elite 8 matchups include Baylor versus Arkansas; Michigan versus Alabama; Gonzaga versus Oregon; and Loyola Chicago versus Houston. All eight of those teams are favored to win in the Sweet 16. Anderson's Final Four is Baylor versus Houston and Gonzaga versus Michigan. He has the Baylor topping Gonzaga in the championship game. There's a chance, although unlikely, Anderson gets all but one game correct. That's incredible considering the odds of a perfect bracket is one in 9.2 quintillion (that's 9,223,372,036,854,775,808).

"Because of his age, I know he's not eligible for any prize or anything, but he was just playing on the app and put in this bracket and it's pretty amazing," Tish Anderson said.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.


The longest an NCAA bracket 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 streak that was established in 2019.

An Ohio man correctly predicted the entire 2019 NCAA tournament into the Sweet 16, something we've not seen in years of tracking publicly verifiable online March Madness brackets at all major games.

In 2021, multiple monumental upsets had all of the remaining perfect brackets busted on the 28thgame. That of course follows 2020, when Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the NCAA tournament.

QUEST: We're tracking perfect brackets in the 2021 NCAA tournament

Before the 2019 NCAA tournament, the longest streak of correct picks we had seen in a March Madness bracket was 39 games, achieved in 2017.

Then Gregg Nigl, of Columbus, shattered that record with his briefly-famous "center road" NCAA tournament bracket in the Capital One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge, which correctly predicted the first 49 games of the 2019 tournament before busting in game 50, when 3-seed Purdue beat 2-seed Tennessee 99-94 in overtime of the second game in the Sweet 16.

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

With more than three decades of online and paper brackets to sift through (the current format has existed since 1985) and with somewhere between an estimated 60 million to 100 million brackets filled out every year, it's very possible that someone, somewhere has done better. Determining an official record is made even more difficult by the fact that online games only recently have begun comprehensive record-keeping.

We've closely tracked about 20-to-25 million online brackets per year at a half dozen major games since 2016 using public leaderboards in combination with direct reporting and information gathering with those games. Prior to 2016, we've relied on those games' reports as well as online archives to get the best information available.

Until this year, we could find no verified brackets that have been perfect into the Sweet 16 at all. There was a widely reported instance of a bracket that was perfect through two rounds in 2010, but there was no way to verify the bracket’s authenticity. It had been entered in an online game where picks could be altered between rounds according to a Deadspin report at the time.

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

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


No perfect NCAA bracket lasted through the first round on Friday night, thanks to the historic 16-1 upset of UMBC over Virginia. Of the millions of brackets we tracked, 25 were perfect through the first 28 games of the tournament, but UMBC's win in game No. 29 knocked all of them out.


We saw an incredible 39 games picked to start the tournament, a number that was the highest recorded until 2019. The record-setting bracket, entered in Yahoo’s bracket game, was the only bracket to make it past 37 games unscathed, and managed to reach 39 straight correct picks before Iowa State fell short of a comeback against Purdue and handed the bracket its first loss of the tournament.


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


This was another top year, as one bracket in the ESPN online bracket game picked the first 34 games correctly, according to a story by ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell. ESPN said in 2016 that its 2015 bracket was the best start to a tournament it had on record in 18 years of its game.

2014 (and before)

Before 2017, the longest perfect bracket streak tracked 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 it had a perfect bracket go into the second round in its 18-plus years of hosting a game.


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

Saturday trimmed that field a bit more, and in games on, CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo!, just two March Madness brackets remained perfect through 40 games heading into Sunday — Nigl's and a bracket at Yahoo.

The brackets disagreed on the fourth game of the day — Texas Tech-Buffalo. When Texas Tech won, that left just Nigl's "center road" bracket as the only perfect March Madness bracket left. Center road survived multiple scares Sunday, including the Tennessee overtime win and Duke's escape over UCF.

And after a runaway Gonzaga victory to start the Sweet 16, the "center road" bracket suffered its first loss, as Purdue beat Tennessee 99-94 in overtime in the 50th game of the tournament. That run of 49 correct games will be very hard to top in the future. Side note, it's the second time in three years that Purdue has busted a record-holding perfect bracket.

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

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

- Dan Jepperson, Mike Szahaj and Daniel Wilco contributed to this reporting

Michael Benzie is the Senior Director of Content for and NCAA Digital. He's worked at Yahoo!, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greenville (S.C.) News and the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NCAA or its member institutions.

College basketball rankings: Even unranked teams find success in the NCAA tournament

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — its modern format — only four of 35 national champions were unranked to start the season. That’s about one in every nine years.

Only .025 percent predicted the 2021 Final Four teams in the Bracket Challenge Game

UCLA's upset of No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight turned what could have been a record-high number of perfect picks into a tiny number that went 4-for-4.

A huge majority of NCAA brackets have a No. 1 seed winning the 2021 championship

Here is how many brackets predicted each seed to win the national championship, from Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds through Drexel and the rest of the No. 16 seeds.
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Every year, 68 NCAA Division I basketball teams compete in a single-elimination tournament affectionately known as March Madness. Those 68 teams are winnowed down to a Sweet Sixteen, then a Final Four, and finally a single champion. Even for those who don’t avidly follow college basketball, March Madness makes for a highly exciting viewing experience.

Those who do make a hobby of closely following college hoops often go a step farther, predicting the round by round results of the tournament by filling out a March Madness bracket. Here we take a closer look at the astronomical odds involved in picking a perfect March Madness bracket, and answer the question of whether that feat has ever been accomplished.

The odds of picking a perfect March Madness bracket                

A total of 68 teams participate in March Madness. Over the course of the tournament, there are a total of seven rounds. The total number of games played from the first round to the last is 63. Therefore, to fill out a perfect March Madness bracket, you would need to correctly guess the winners of all 63 games.

At first, that may not sound like such a daunting feat. After all, there is a 50-50 chance that you could guess the correct results for each match up. Those with above-average familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of different teams could further skew those odds in their favor.

So just how difficult would it be to build a perfect bracket, statistically speaking? Unfortunately, the answer is that it would be astronomically difficult. Statisticians have determined that the odds of selecting a perfect bracket are roughly one in 9.2 quintillion. Put another way, there are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 different possible outcomes for a 68 team bracket.

Has anyone ever picked a perfect bracket?

Those staggering odds beg the question: has anyone ever accomplished the unthinkable goal of picking a perfect March Madness bracket? The answer to that question, as far as the official record goes, is no. In that case, you may find yourself wondering, how close has anybody come to getting it all right?

Fortunately, the NCAA tracks all publicly verifiable March Madness brackets online. Using that information, they can determine the longest streak of correct bracket picks. According to their data, the longest verifiable streak stands at 49 games. That record was set during the 2019 March Madness by Gregg Nigl, a neuropsychologist from Columbus, Ohio.

Nigl shattered the previous record of 39 correct picks, which was set in 2017. Nigl’s bracket finally went bust on game 50, when his pick of Tennessee lost to Purdue. When asked for the secret to his success, Nigl admitted to watching a lot of Big 10 basketball. Yet he also said that, ultimately, getting that far came down to “a lot of luck too.”

The lure of a perfect bracket

While Nigl deserves credit for his success—and for his modesty—he probably undersold the importance of luck in picking a perfect bracket. In fact, luck is probably the single most important factor. In other words, no matter how extensive your knowledge of college basketball, the number of variables at play is too vast and too random for anybody to pick.

Of course, that doesn’t stop people from trying. Filling out a March Madness bracket has become a rite of passage for many sports fans—including some high-profile celebrities. Even former president Barack Obama makes a yearly tradition of filling out his March Madness bracket.

From 2009 to 2015, Obama managed to correctly pick 64% of tournament games. That number falls significantly below the 73-75% average reported by ESPN. Fortunately, Obama hasn’t let his poor picks deter him from filling out new brackets each year.

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Best March Madness bracket ever

March Madness has found the perfect way to get fans involved in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: bracketology. Millions of brackets are created every year by fans worldwide, all hoping to create the perfect combination of picks.

The 2021 college basketball season has been anything but normal, with COVID precautions shaking up countless schedules, but the madness continues nonetheless.

The odds of completing a perfect bracket, given the bracket-maker has some prior college basketball knowledge, is one in 120 billion. With these odds, there is no arguing about the difficulty of a clean bracket.

The tradition of filling out brackets for March Madness began in 1977, with a small bar in New Jersey offering $10 buy-ins to anyone hoping to participate.

Best March Madness brackets of all-time

Fans cheer for an upset in March Madness

While upsets can deliver immense excitement for some fans, they can prove devastating for those looking to complete the perfect bracket. The closest any bracket has come to absolute perfection came in 2019, when a neuropsychologist from Ohio took the perfect bracket through 50 games.

The previous record was only 36 games, but the record-shattering bracket from 2019 will likely stand strong for many years. The owner of the best bracket ever, Gregg Nigl, claimed there was "a lot of luck" involved in his selections.

Nonetheless, his bracket was truly incredible and will remain in the March Madness history books.

There are more than nine trillion possible outcomes in the March Madness tournament, making the perfect bracket just about impossible. Not only would someone need an incredible knowledge of college basketball, but also lots of luck to achieve perfection.

Any chance of a perfect bracket this year has already been spoiled, with many shocking first-and-second round upsets. After 2nd-seeded Ohio State fell to 15th-seeded Oral Roberts, only 108 out of 14.7 million ESPN brackets remained.

While the odds are nearly zero, millions of people still love filling out brackets. Making a bracket gives fans teams to root for, big and small schools alike. Cinderella stories are built by the players and coaches, but their stories are lifted up by the fans.

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As March Madness continues, bracketology will be thrown out the window. This year has already busted every single bracket, but that will not deter fans from coming back for more next March.


Out best filled bracket ever

Best March Madness bracket of all time: What is the longest an NCAA bracket stayed perfect?

Filling out a bracket in March has become one of the most widely endulged traditions in the country. Sixty-seven games are played over three weeks in arenas across the map. The goal is to be perfect, and when we're inevitably not, we just hope to be a little bit better than our friends.

Looking back at recent years, it's hard to remember what first-round upset you picked or which underdog you were convinced was headed to the Final Four. Some of us fill out too many brackets to keep track of. But it's easy to remember the college kids that became household names, or the shots that led some to become immortalized in college basketball history.

The agony of being one of the 67 fan bases that get its heart ripped out at some point in March is a near certainty, yet the madness of March can provide any foolish fan with a glimmer of hope. In the rollercoaster of emotions that come and go in March, sometimes it's best to rip up your bracket and just enjoy basketball and its purest form.

That's not the focus now, though. In the midst of March, it's time to create a bracket (or four), disregard the odds of bracket success, and hope this is our year. We're sports fans, it's what we do best.

MORE: Why it's nearly impossible to have perfect bracket

Who was the closest to a perfect NCAA bracket?

Gregg Nigl was sick on the first Thursday of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. He called in sick to work and planned to stay in bed to recuperate, but before he could take a nap, Nigl decided to fill out a bracket so he could participate in the tournament group with his friends. That bracket turned out to be the best one ever recorded. His picks started winning on Thursday morning and kept it up. He was perfect through the first round, then the second. 

Nigl became the first person to have a verified bracket that correctly predicted every game through the Sweet 16. He picked the first 49 games correctly, crushing the old recorded record of 39. Tens of millions of brackets are filled out every year, so it's possible someone has produced a better bracket on paper or before websites kept an official record. According to its website, the NCAA has "closely tracked about 20-25 million online brackets per year at a half dozen major games since 2016 using public leaderboards in combination with direct reporting and information gathering with those games." They relied on reports and online archives prior to 2016.

The act of correctly predicting the first 49 games of the Tournament is incredible, nonetheless. If every game is viewed as a 50-50 probability, the odds of correctly picking 49 straight games, as Nigl did, are one in 562 trillion. Nigl, a neuropsychologist from Ohio, lost for the first time on the 50th game of the tournament when Purdue beat Tennessee, 99-94, in overtime. His bracket lost a bit of its magic after that. After correctly picking every Sweet 16 team, he got five of the Elite Eight teams right and one Final Four team.

Odds of a perfect bracket in March Madness

To keep it short, the traditional odds of picking every game correctly, if each matchup is considered a 50-50 shot, is one in 9.2 quintillion. For reference, a quintillion is one billion billion. No. 1 seeds have beaten the 16-seeds every time except for one, so we know not all matchups are toss-ups. FiveThirtyEight projects that the odds for their model, which factors in actual basketball knowledge and tournament history, are one in 2.15 billion. 

The odds are long no matter what metric is used. Billionaire Warren Buffett has offered $1 billion to anyone who got a perfect bracket, but the odds say that's unlikely to ever happen. He's since taken it down a notch, pledging $1 million a year for life to any Berkshire Hathaway employee who accurately predicted the Sweet 16. Buffett's other offer to employees at Berkshire Hathaway is a nice $1 million to anyone who got all 32 first-round games correct.

Best March Madness brackets by year


Nigl's 49-for-49 start wasn't just the best start to a bracket in 2019, it was the best verified start in recorded history.


While the best bracket to date came in 2019, brackets in 2019 never really had a chance. 16-seed UMBC knocked off 1-seed Virginia and the 25 remaining perfect brackets were spoiled.


A bracket on Yahoo! started with 39 straight wins, a record until 2019. The bracket stayed perfect until the second round when Iowa State fell to Purdue.


Perfect brackets were deterred early when 2-seed Michigan State was upset by 15-seed Middle Tennesse State. The best bracket lasted 25 games. 


One bracket in the ESPN online bracket game picked the first 34 games correctly. ESPN said the bracket was the best start to a tournament it had on record in 18 years of its game.

2014 and earlier

In 2014, Yahoo! Sports reported that a bracket was perfect going into the second round and started with 36 straight wins. Yahoo! said it was the only time the site had a bracket with a perfect first round in its 18-plus years of tracking brackets. A bracket in 2010 made headlines when it reportedly was perfect through two rounds, but there was no way to verify the bracket’s authenticity.

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