LAS VEGAS (AP) – The NCAA Tournament has barely begun, and brackets already are crashing around the country.

Nearly 20 million brackets had been dinged on the ESPN Tournament Challenge after the initial four games Thursday, leaving just 2.7 million still perfect.

Those having No. 8 seed Mississippi State and No. 6 BYU advance out of the first round took the biggest hits. Each school was predicted to get through the first round in more than 9 million brackets.

Mississippi State lost 69-51 to Michigan State, and BYU was beaten 71-67 by Duquesne.

A record 22.6 million brackets were filled out on ESPN’s site, up 15% over last year.

At the NCAA’s March Madness site, only 11.01% of brackets — just more than 4 million — remained unscathed.

UConn was named the champion on 32.3% of brackets submitted on CBS’ site, far away the most popular choice. Purdue was next at 12.3%, followed by Houston at 11.9% and North Carolina at 8.9%.

All four are No. 1 seeds, and at 3.8% are the most likely Final Four, according to the brackets. The next closest at 2% includes No. 2 seed Arizona in place of North Carolina out of the West Region.

Mountain West tournament champion New Mexico, the 11 seed in the West, was the most popular double-digit pick to advance to the Sweet 16 at 14%.

UConn also was the favorite in the ESPN Tournament Challenge at 24.7%, followed by Houston at 13.6% and Purdue at 10.1%.

Sheldon Jacobson, who runs the BracketOdds website, said most people don’t take the proper approach to filling out their brackets, choosing games from the first round to the championship game.

“Pick the best team you like in each of the regions and then build your bracket from there,” Jacobson said. “When you do that, you’re actually eliminating some of the risk of making mistakes in the other parts of the bracket. It’s very counterintuitive, but that’s what our research paper showed.”


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