Perhaps our 2023 March Madness brackets never stood a chance.
Considering all that happened in the first few hours of the NCAA tournament, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the UConn Huskies, Miami Hurricanes, Florida Atlantic Owls and San Diego State Aztecs are heading to Houston for the Final Four.
Of the more than 20 million brackets submitted in ESPN's Tournament Challenge, 0.3% of them had FAU reaching the Final Four. Each 16-seed was picked to reach the Sweet 16 twice as often as FAU was to make the Elite Eight.
Yet somehow, there were 37 perfect Final Four picks.
HOW?! 😅 pic.twitter.com/m34fs8YDkz— ESPN (@espn) March 27, 2023
ESPN's college basketball writers, commentators and analysts, who made their picks shortly after the tournament field was announced, were definitely not perfect. How bad was it? Of the 42 experts, 29 didn't get a single Final Four pick correct. However, those who rode with UConn still have hope.
Here's what the experts got right and what they missed:
Purdue, Arizona: WYD?
The first two days of the NCAA tournament are almost always the most fun. In 2023, they were also one of the most destructive to picks and brackets alike.
Six experts lost their national championship pick in the first weekend. Three picked the Kansas Jayhawks, two picked the Duke Blue Devils and one picked the Purdue Boilermakers. While it had the fewest title picks, Purdue had the most shocking loss of the tournament, losing as a No. 1 seed to the No. 16-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.
It was just the second time a No. 16 has defeated a No. 1 seed. For a brief moment, we loved FDU, the tiny school in Madison, New Jersey. But, it wasn't the only Garden State team to pull off a huge upset.
The No. 15 seed Princeton Tigers knocked off the No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats. Seven experts had Zona in the Final Four. They were the second-most popular pick from the South Region, behind the No. 1 seed Alabama Crimson Tide. In Tournament Challenge, these losses translated to 2.56 million brackets getting their title winner wrong.
Time to leave
In the East Region, 37 of 42 experts picked Duke, a No. 5 seed, or the No. 2 seed Marquette Golden Eagles to win that region. Neither advanced past the round of 32 -- Marquette lost to the No. 7 seed Michigan State Spartans and Duke lost to the No. 4 seed Tennessee Volunteers.
Same energy 😅 @Vol_Hoops pic.twitter.com/2XUylbHqeC— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 19, 2023
And just like that, 18 experts lost multiple Final Four picks in the first weekend, and there were no perfect brackets left.
BRACKETS BUSTED 💔 pic.twitter.com/UQjosDoEpy— ESPN (@espn) March 18, 2023
A chalk balk
A pair of No. 1 seeds, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Houston Cougars, looked like they might save the tournament for the experts. Those teams were clear No. 1s going into the tournament and had been fairly dominant all season long. Alabama (11) and Houston (8) were the most popular national champion picks by the experts. Texas was also picked eight times.
Ah, but there was yet still more chaos, with unlikely Final Four teams to come into the picture. If the experts can point to any teams absolutely wrecking them, it's the Miami Hurricanes and San Diego State Aztecs. The Canes took out the Cougars and Longhorns, thus causing 16 different experts to lose a Final Four team/title winner. The Aztecs took out the Tide and, for good measure, the Creighton Bluejays, who were picked for the Final Four by one expert.
Tournament Challenge brackets didn't fare any better. Alabama was picked to win it all in 19% of ESPN's brackets and was in the Final Four on 10,550,182 brackets.
Save us, UConn
Play-by-play commentator Doug Sherman picked Miami and UConn to reach the Final Four. He is the only expert to get two teams correct. For 11 other experts, the Huskies were the only team they picked right. Four experts, including Sherman, chose UConn to cut down the nets in Houston. There are some numbers and history to suggest that this pick might work:
6-0: UConn has never lost a Final Four game in the Lone Star State. The Huskies have won three (2004, 2011, 2014) of their four national championships in Texas.
23: With a 9-seed, two 5-seeds and one 4-seed playing in Houston, the combined seed total is 23. That is the second-highest seed total ever in a Final Four. The highest was 26 in 2011 -- also a Final Four in Houston and one where UConn won it all.
0: This is the first Final Four since 2011 in which a No. 1 seed didn't play. Again, UConn was there and won the whole thing. Zero is also the number of Final Four appearances for FAU, Miami and SDSU.
ESPN Fantasy Sports researcher Kyle Soppe contributed to this story.