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The Final Numbers

3/19/2009

Editor's note: This is a follow-up to Andrew Feldman's article on Tuesday that provided early statistics about Tournament Challenge user trends.

The brackets are locked, and now it's time to watch the games. Will your bracket hold up?

There were more than 5 million entries in ESPN's Tournament Challenge this year, giving me quite a sample size with which to work. From President Barack Obama to any number of ESPN personalities, every entrant has his or her own thoughts, biases and strategies. Thankfully, we can group all the entries together and find out, in general, what everyone was thinking. Here's a look at some of the more interesting stories told by one incredibly popular game.

No faith

It's tough to be a low seed. It's even tougher to be a low seed with no fan support. The distinct honor of being the team with the least fan support goes to Cal State Northridge. The Matadors, who gave Memphis a true battle, were selected to win the national championship in only 309 brackets. Unfortunately, they won't make those 309 people proud, but even the four 16 seeds were given more respect.

Some other non-fan favorites:
No. 16 East Tennessee State: 969
No. 15 Morgan State: 329
No. 14 Cornell: 473
No. 13 Portland State: 402
No. 12 Northern Iowa: 517

Shocker from the low seeds:
No. 16 Morehead State: 2,689

Midrange support:
No. 7 Texas: 9,335
No. 6 West Virginia: 11,467
No. 5 Florida State: 10,315
No 4 Gonzaga: 29,930

At the top

The Tar Heels ended up in the champion's slot in 27.2 percent of the brackets on ESPN.com, down slightly from the team's peak of 28 percent Tuesday. Obama challenged UNC as he filled out his bracket, but Ty Lawson's health could greatly affect the Tar Heels' chance of success … just not in the first round.

Pittsburgh was the greatest benefactor of UNC's drop in championship brackets. The Panthers jumped a full percentage point to 17.1 percent, while fellow No. 1 seed Louisville gained half a percentage point to 18.2 percent.

Connecticut continued to drop as users displayed more faith in Memphis cutting down the nets; 59.7 percent of entries predicted the teams would meet in the Elite Eight, and although, according to users, the Huskies have the edge in that matchup (63 percent to 37 percent), Connecticut is predicted to win the title in only 7.1 percent of the brackets, less than Memphis' 9.8 percent.

The Final Four

Users were more confident in Louisville making the Final Four than they were in any other team. Coming out of the Midwest, Louisville was predicted to win its region 63.2 percent of the time. The Cardinals' closest competition was Michigan State at a measly 13.5 percent.

The other regions had North Carolina barely reaching the 60 percent range with Oklahoma second at 18 percent, Pittsburgh at 59.2 percent with Duke second at 19.9 percent and No. 2 Memphis overcoming No. 1 Connecticut, 47.6 percent to 37.0 percent.

Although users deemed the scenario unlikely, 12.8 percent did predict No. 3 seed Syracuse would make it to Detroit. Users' confidence in all four No. 1 seeds making the Final Four fell as the brackets came in, going from 10.4 percent Tuesday to 9.9 percent when the brackets were locked. If Memphis were a No. 1 seed instead of Connecticut, 14.5 percent of entries would have all four No. 1s making the Final Four.

Cal and the 7 and 10 seeds

Congrats to California for being the team most predicted to be upset in the first round. The No. 7 seed faced Maryland in the West, and even though the Bears were the favorites, users believed the Terrapins have the team to beat in this matchup. Over the past two days, Cal's support increased by 2 percent, but the Bears still were predicted to win on only 37 percent of brackets. The users proved to be right, as Maryland earned an 84-71 victory.

The other three 7-10 matchups all favor the 7 seeds, with numbers very similar to those available Tuesday. The closest matchup, in terms of predictions, remained the Boston College-USC game, with the teams at a 51.8 percent-48.2 percent split.

5 alive?

Although support for the No. 5 seeds was questionable Tuesday, users never clearly predicted which No. 5 team would make an early exit in the first round. The most respect was given to Purdue at 89.3 percent (down 0.4 percent from Tuesday). Florida State, coming off a solid ACC tournament performance, was predicted in 78.9 percent (down 0.5 percent) of brackets to handle Wisconsin in their first-round matchup. Illinois' support faltered 2 percent, dropping from 63 percent to 61 percent, while Utah's fans spoke louder, increasing their team's percentage to 55.6.

Quick hits

• Michigan State was predicted to make the Final Four less than any other 1 or 2 seed, in only 5.9 percent of the brackets. The Spartans' closest companion was Duke at 7 percent.

• 51.3 percent of users believe all four No. 1 seeds will make the Elite Eight. (Up 0.2 percent from Tuesday.)

• 10.4 percent believe the Elite Eight will include all four No. 2 seeds. (Up 0.4 percent). Only 0.2 percent of users believe we will see an all-2-seed Final Four.

• The most commonly selected final game was North Carolina versus Louisville at 17.6 percent. (Up 0.1 percent). UNC was predicted to win by most.

• Among the teams predicted to make the Final Four, the love for Wake Forest was the most surprising (at least to me). Currently, 3.3 percent of users (down 0.1 percent) believe Wake will come out of its bracket, a higher percentage than believe in other 3 seeds Villanova and Missouri (3.1 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively).

• An all-Big East Final Four? 1.7 percent of users predicted a Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Syracuse Final Four.

• Duke versus North Carolina … again? The two teams could meet in the Final Four, and 12.3 percent of users predicted they will do so. Given that matchup, 9.2 percent of users predicted North Carolina to win.

• Just for fun … a Michigan versus Ohio State title game was predicted on only 347 brackets.

• No. 4 seed Xavier was predicted to win the title on only 6,154 brackets. That was less than many other teams, including No. 10s Michigan and Maryland, No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Ohio State. Coming very close: No. 9 Tennessee.

You can read more from Andrew Feldman in the ESPN.com Poker section.