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Mar 07 2018
by Fresh U Editors

How to Fill Out Your March Madness Bracket

By Fresh U Editors - Mar 07 2018

It’s that time of year again. March Madness – the tournament that determines the NCAA Basketball champions – is right around the corner. 68 college teams will compete against each other in a single-elimination style tournament until only four remain. 68 teams becomes 64 teams in the Round of 64, then that number shrinks to 32 teams in the Round of 32, followed by 16 in the Sweet Sixteen, to 4 teams in the Final Four, and the winners of the Final Four face off in the National Championship.

Aside from watching the games and cheering on a favorite team, there’s another way that fans can participate in March Madness. Each year, fans have the chance to make their own predictions about which teams will advance in each round and finally make it to the National Championship. Never filled out a bracket? Here’s what you need to know.

Where To Find the Bracket

You can find an official bracket on the NCAA website. Many sports publication, like ESPN, also offer their own bracket you can save and fill out. 

When To Start Filling Out the Bracket

Selection Sunday marks the start of March Madness when the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee announces the 68 teams that will be playing in the tournament. 2018’s Selection Sunday takes place on March 11. Once the schedule of the 68 teams is announced, it’s time to predict which teams you think will make it all the way to the National Championship.

When To Have Your Bracket Filled Out

Specific deadlines to fill out your bracket will vary depending on if you enter bracket challenges, like the Official NCAA Bracket Challenge, or pools. Typically, the deadline to have your bracket completely filled out is right before the tipoff of the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

It can be a little confusing here, as the bracket includes spaces for the “First Four.” Eight teams play each other to determine which four teams will play in the official first round of the tournament along with 60 other teams. Some bracket challenges or pools don’t include First Four predictions in their bracket, instead starting with 64 teams. The 2018 First Four games take place March 13-14, and the first round of the tournament takes place March 15-16.

How to Fill Out the Bracket

You don’t need to be an expert Basketball fan to fill out a bracket. When you look at your bracket, you will see four quadrants, representing four regions, each with spaces numbered 1-16. The teams that fill those spaces, also called seeds, are determined by the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee based on discussions with coaches, and evaluation of a team’s wins and losses, road record, and other metrics. The 16 teams in each quadrant are ranked from one to 16, with the No. 1 seed determined to be the strongest team, and the No. 16 determined to be the weakest team of the 16.

The first step to completing your bracket is to fill in the numbered spaces with the teams that are announced by the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee on Selection Sunday. Fill in your bracket according to their schedule of teams. Next, it is up to you to predict which team will win in each subsequent round.

Which Teams To Include in Your Bracket

While there is no way to know for sure which team is going to win each round, there are a few key facts to keep in mind. According to the NCAA website, a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. There’s always a chance for an upset, but you can choose to stick with the statistics and choose the No. 1 seed to advance further.

Making your other choices may be more difficult. There are countless articles and resources on the internet that offer suggestions on predicting the winners, but each year will be different. This NCAA article provides seven mistakes to avoid making while filling out your bracket, and is worth checking out. Among the tips, they recommend keeping a 14 or 15 seed out of your final sixteen teams (also called the Sweet Sixteen), not predicting a 4 or 5 seed to win the National Championship, and including more than just No. 1 seeds in your Final Four prediction. When the 68 teams are announced, you can do some research on the top teams to learn more about their key players – point guards, shooting guards, centers – and their stats.

How Many Brackets You Should Fill Out

You can technically download and fill out as many brackets as you want. However, it’s common for bracket challenges, pools, and informal competitions among friends or coworkers to only accept one bracket. While there are challenges or pools out there that accept more than one bracket, it’s standard to make one set of predictions and stick with them.

What To Do With Your Bracket

Once you’ve filled out your bracket, there’s a number of things you can do with it. You can enter the Official Bracket Challenge with the NCAA, you can enter the ESPN Tournament Challenge, you can see if your workplace has a bracket pool, or you can simply compare your bracket to your friends or coworkers. Filling out a bracket gives you the chance to participate in the fun of March Madness without knowing everything about the teams playing.

If you want to brush up on your Basketball knowledge before filling out your bracket, make sure to check out Rookie Road’s Basketball tutorial to understand more about what goes into the game before making your predictions. 

Lead Image Credit: Murray State via Flickr Creative Commons

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