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How to make your March Madness bracket picks

How to make your March Madness bracket picks
Posted at 1:45 PM, Mar 20, 2024

March Madness is upon us. And whether you’re a die-hard basketball fan or don’t even know what the letters NCAA stand for, you can take part in the bracket betting process. (It’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association, by the way.)

But before you make your March Madness bracket, let’s learn a little bit about this tournament. What’s going on basketball-wise?

The NCAA championship is a single-elimination tournament that determines the national champion of the Division I level in college basketball. After an early elimination round whittles 68 teams down to 64 and sets the four No. 1 seeds, they will begin playing one another based on geographical regions: East, South, Midwest and West.

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In round 1, the men’s teams will play 16 games on Thursday and Friday, and the women’s teams will play 16 games on Friday and Saturday.

Higher seeds (the teams with the winningest records) will play their corresponding lower seeds in their region. In other words, the No. 1 seed will face off against the No. 16 seed; the No. 2 seed will be pitted against the No. 15 seed; and so on. The games will take place over three weeks, starting with the first rounds of 64 and 32 on March 17 through March 20. The final game will take place on Monday, April 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrates after game
AP Photo/Cliff Jette

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How to Make a March Madness Bracket

Here’s where you come in. Your office may be running a pool, or maybe one of your friends has organized one. That person might pass around some printed brackets and ask you to fill in the bracket with the team you think will win each game. Traditionally, you’ll be asked to throw some money into the pot, and the winner can win hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

How can you win? There are six rounds, and each round is worth a number of points. The person in charge of your pool will determine the point value of each round, tally up your number of correctly picked games in each round, and multiply that number by the points assigned to that round. Then they will add up all the points. If you have the most points, you win.

You can also take part in an online bracket challenge for a chance to win some really big money. Some of the sites offering bracket pools are CBS Sports, ESPN, Yahoo Sports and the NCAA itself.

To follow your progress as the tournament unfolds, take a look at our guide to watching the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments on TV. You can also stream every game on March Madness Live.

March Madness bracket

Tips for Choosing March Madness Bracket Winners

Common sense tells you that when a No. 1 seeds plays a No. 16 seed, odds are in favor of the team with the best record. Since 1985, a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed only twice in the men’s tournament. (High seed upsets have been even less likely in the women’s tournaments.) It’s similarly unlikely that a No. 15 seed will beat a No. 2 seed. But when the matched-up teams have more similar records, it becomes harder to predict who might win. Also, upsets happen every year, so picking only top-seeded teams can still result in a busted bracket.

Of course, we live in an age of instant information at our fingertips. You just could mimic an expert’s bracket. Or you could go to one of the scores of basketball experts who use various analytic metrics to rank each team, and you can get handy facts by checking out, say, this chart at It’s not cheating, because really, no one knows who’s going to win. That’s what makes this all such madness!

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