A trio of unexpected losses during the NCAA March Madness tournament this week have shattered more than half the brackets wagered and frustrated millions of college sports gamblers nationwide.
Most fans who completed a bracket picked the University of Kentucky — a high-achieving college hoops school — to defeat the lesser known Saint Peter's University of New Jersey. Saint Peter's, however, shocked the. Similarly, the University of Richmond beat the heavily favored University of Iowa, while New Mexico State University defeated the University of Connecticut, another elite school for basketball.
More than 101,000 brackets completed using ESPN are worthless now because they selected Iowa and Kentucky for the final championship game, according to data compiled by PlayUSA. ESPN saw more than 17 million brackets completed for this year's March Madness, PlayUSA said, and about 8.8 million of them — or 52% —predicted Kentucky and Iowa would still be in the tournament. Those bets are now moot.
The NCAA reported Friday that fewer than 200 perfect brackets remain, including 161 from ESPN.
The gamblers who pegged Connecticut, Iowa or Kentucky to win may have lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their bracket bets, but they can still perhaps win some money, college sports betting expert Eli Hershkovich told CBS MoneyWatch. It will take betting on individual games throughout the rest of the tournament and winning those wagers, Hershkovich explained.
"You can make it back, but for the people who are new to this and want to lay that kind of price down again, it's going to take time to win that back," he said.
Days before the men's college basketball tournament begins, bettors place their wagers and complete brackets using more than a dozen different platforms. Some favor FanDuel or DraftKings sportsbooks for their bets while others complete a bracket using ESPN (the largest of the platforms), Yahoo or CBS Sports. Fans who predict the winners using a bracket typically vie for cash prizes organized through an office pool from their employer or a friendly wager with family and friends.
The Connecticut, Iowa and Kentucky upsets are noteworthy because they happened at a time when Americans are slated to place a record number of bets on the tournament due to the legalization of mobile sports betting in several large states. Roughly 45 millionin bets during March Madness, according to the American Gaming Association.
It's difficult to estimate how much money bettors lost from the upsets because sportsbooks keep those numbers private.
The Iowa and Kentucky losses in particular left only 14 perfect brackets remaining among the brackets completed on the Yahoo Fantasy platform. About 98% of the brackets placed on Yahoo Fantasy picked Kentucky beating Saint Peter's, Yahoo Sports reported.
Hershkovich said fans are likely frustrated with the Kentucky loss more than the other two upsets because many brackets had Kentucky beating Saint Peter's and winning the entire tournament.
The Kentucky game didn't spell ruin for everyone, FanDuel told CBS MoneyWatch on Friday. One user placed a $2,000 on Saint Peters and won $24,000, FanDuel reported.
"While there were no large wagers on the game, there were plenty of small bets at big odds that made a lot of St. Peters fans happy across the country," FanDuel said.
The tournament's second round begins Saturday and bettors should be careful picking winners, Sportsline analyst Kenny White told CBS News.
"It's March Madness and this year it will be madder than ever," White said. "And we're going to see plenty of more."
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