How to Make a March Madness Bracket

2023 NCAA Tournament Picks
Odds | Matchups | Futures | Best March Madness Betting Sites
Sweet 16 | Elite 8 | Final 4 | Championship 

March has arrived, and with it comes possibly the best month of the non-football season: the March Madness college basketball tournament. The bracket challenges that exist are all the rage when it comes to most watchers' favorite ways to participate in gambling on the tournament, so we're going to walk you through all of the aspects of creating and participating in a conventional bracket challenge.

What is a Bracket?

Identifying what a bracket is is pretty simple: it's when you have an even number of teams competing against each other, with the winners of each game advancing to compete against those winners, and so on and so forth.

With the NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenges, it works very similarly. Each bracket will have 64 teams, and before the tournament begins, you pick the winners of every single game to try and predict which teams will advance to the head-to-head championship match.

How to Set Up Your March Madness Bracket

Follow these simple steps to set up your March Madness bracket correctly:

  1. Choose the bracket challenge that you would like to play
  2. Pick the teams that you believe will advance based on seeding or analysis
  3. Hit submit and get ready to watch!

Key Dates

Selection Sunday: March 13th

On Selection Sunday, all 68 teams that made the NCAA Tournament bracket are revealed and you can pick your brackets for the first time.

First Round Begins: March 17(Men) and March 18(Women)

The first games of the first round begin on these days. Don't forget, once these games start, your brackets will be locked and you won't be able to submit full tournament picks anymore!

Championship Game: April 3(Women) and April 4(Men)

The national championship game decides the March Madness tournament, and after it is completed, all scores for the bracket challenge are final and do not change.

How Does the March Madness Bracket Work?

The evolution of brackets over the year have shown a variation in style and the way they look, but more on that below. The modern NCAA tournament bracket seeds all teams based by skill level, using a 1-16 scale for each of its four regions: East, West, Midwest, and South.

Each of the four regions correlates to where the opening rounds are played, and each region will rank its teams from 1-16, with 1 being the highest seed and 16 being the lowest seed. There are two types of seeding used to put each team into its respective region.

The first is the region seed, which is the seed that most people commonly refer to when talking about a specific team. The second is the overall seed, which ranks every team in the tournament, 1 through 68 going from high to low. The committee tries to keep multiple great teams out of the same region and spread them out to provide the best possible matchups as the tournament goes deeper.

There is no redrawing for seeds or anything after the completion of each round, all routes to the championship are preset before March Madness begins and the bracket does not change. The tournament is single elimination, which means that if you lose, you go home. This is a bit different than some other college sports tournaments, but it provides for an exhilarating experience knowing that you only get one chance to win in each matchup.

The way the March Madness bracket unfolds is as follows: There are only 64 spots in the main bracket, so with 68 teams, there will be four eliminated right away, through what is called the First Four matchups consisting of the teams that were the last ones chosen to be in the tournament by the selection committee.

After the 64-team field is set, the tournament begins and the highest and lowest seeds will play each other until a champion is decided. There are 6 total rounds of the tournament: Round of 64, Round of 32, Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and the Final.

When Did Brackets Start?

Bracket challenges haven't always been the most popular thing with the current 64-team style only existing since 1985. The first bracket pool allegedly started in 1977, according to the Smithsonian, where 88 Staten Island bar patrons gathered together and filled out brackets to battle against each other.

40 years later, tens of millions of people would go on to various sites, whether it be ESPN, CBS, NCAA, or wherever, to fill out bracket challenges with only one goal in mind: to fill out a 100% perfect bracket and get every single matchup correct, something that has never ever been done.

What are the Odds of a Perfect Bracket?

Answering that question is very difficult to quantify. To start, you need to be aware of the single-most important fact of this process: Nobody has ever filled out a perfect bracket that has been verified. In fact, Warren Buffett routinely offer $1 BILLION to anyone that fills out a perfect bracket, and there's a good reason for it: it's a nearly impossible endeavor.

The easiest way to calculate this is to assume that you are picking 63 games that are 50/50 odds to win. In this equation, you'd be multiplying 2 times 2 63 times, which is equal to somewhere in the neighborhood of 9.2 quintillion. That's 9,200,000,000,000,000,000, which is EIGHTEEN zeroes. It's a nearly astronomical probability, and it will likely never happen because even if you are a well-informed person paying attention to statistics and game flow, really anything can happen in a one-and-done basketball game.

In recent years, there have been developments making a perfect bracket further unlikely, like when 16-seed UMBC knocked off 1-seed Virginia in 2021, something that had never happened before in bracket history.

All of this boils down to say, keep on filling out those brackets and trying to get close, but you'll likely be attempting it for years to come.