(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."
NCAA.com 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 NCAA.com.
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 NCAA.com, 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 NCAA.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.