March Madness pools

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March Madness pools are a form of sports betting based on the annual NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament each spring in the United States. The increasing interest in this event is fostered by March Madness pools, or brackets. A bracket is a form that can be completed on-line or printed out and completed by hand whereby the participant predicts the outcome of each game in the tournament. His or her predictions are compared against others in the pool, and whoever has the best prognostication skills wins the contest. Various other bracket games exist including a board game whereby players draft teams.[1][2]


Tournament bids[edit]

Sixty-eight (68) teams line up with a chance to win the national title. It is not just the best 68 teams from among the more than 350 teams that play Division I basketball, though. Teams are split into 32 conferences, and each of those conferences has an automatic bid. Every conference plays a season-ending conference tournament, and gives the automatic bid to the winner.[3] The other 36 teams are chosen by a selection committee. They are called at-large bids, and they generally go to the 36 most deserving teams.[4] It is difficult to pick the 36 best teams, and the process is very subjective and can be very controversial.[5]


The four lowest ranked automatic bid teams and the four lowest ranked at-large teams in the tournament play in special play-in games called the First Four before the tournament.[6] The rest of the field is split into four regions of 16 teams, and those regions are seeded from one to 16. The top team in each region plays the 16th team, the second plays the 15th and so on. The winners of each game goes on to the next round and so on until only one team is standing. A team is knocked out of the tournament and has to go home as soon as they lose once, so the pressure is incredibly intense.


The tournament takes place over three weekends starting with "Selection Sunday"[7] happening approximately during the middle of March. And concluding the knockout competition with a final four, usually held on the first weekend of April.


Perhaps the biggest key to the tremendous popularity of the tournament is the bracket. The March Madness bracket is the grid of all the teams in the tournament and the path they have to follow to the Final Four and the championship game. Filling out a bracket with the winners of each of the 63 games is an incredibly difficult task, and nobody has successfully filled out a perfect bracket. If games were 50/50 propositions, the chances of a bracket being perfect are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (9.2 quintillion).[8] Some March Madness contests are free to enter, others require an entry fee. Many businesses utilize pool hosting services to run their pools, allowing them the flexibility to customize the pool rules and display.


March Madness has become one of the most popular sporting events in the United States.[9][10] Because of the length of the tournament and the number of teams involved it is one of the most popular sporting events in terms of television ratings. One event associated with March Madness is filling out the brackets. It has become extremely common in popular culture, even among non-sports fans; it is estimated that tens of millions of Americans participate in the contest every year. Mainstream media outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports or MGM host tournaments online where contestants can enter for free and obtain high valuable cash prizes up to 2 million dollars.[11] Employers have also noticed a change in the behavior of employees during this time: they have seen an increase in the number of sick days used, extended lunch breaks and even the rescheduling of conference calls to allow for more tournament watching.[12] There are also many handicappers and pundits which offer advice for winning your bracket.[13][14] Every year different universities, like Cornell, do different researches based on players statistics and performance, and publish their lists of favourites,[15] generating adittional expectation, to see which college may succeed on the pool.


  1. ^ "Net Score Bracket Game". Net Score Bracket Game. Retrieved 2022-09-26.
  2. ^ Siegel, Alan (2013-03-17). "Bored With Brackets? Here Are 11 Alternate Ways to Run an NCAA Pool". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2022-09-26.
  3. ^ Explanation of March Madness
  4. ^ "Top contenders for March Madness". American Gambler. Retrieved 2022-04-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Scott, Dylan (2018-03-13). "NCAA bribery scandall". Retrieved 2022-04-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Bracketology with Joe Lunardi". January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  7. ^ "March Madness Selection Sunday". Rookie Road. Retrieved 2022-04-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ Szczerba, Robert J. "Bracketology 101: Picking A Perfect Bracket Is Actually Easier Than You Think". Forbes. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  9. ^ Geiling, Natasha (March 20, 2014). "When Did Filling Out A March Madness Bracket Become Popular?". Smithsonian. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Deford, Frank (March 9, 2011). "What makes March Madness so popular? Its knockout nature". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  11. ^ "BetMGM March Madness $2 Milion Bracket challenge". Retrieved 2022-04-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Business lose $14B from workers watching March Madness". NewsNation. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  13. ^ Trotter, Ryan (March 18, 2013). "Geeks Can Win March Madness Pools". Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Boudway, Ira (March 18, 2013). "How to Win Your March Madness Pool". Business Week. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  15. ^ Cornell University. "March Madness Favourites". Retrieved 2022-04-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading[edit]

  • Adams T (2018). Improving Your NCAA Bracket with Statistics. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  • Feng E (2016). How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool. The Power Rank, Inc.
  • Poundstone W (2014). Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody. Little, Brown and Company.