Animal SportsFantasy SportsIndividual SportsTeam SportsThe Olympics

How to Score an NCAA March Madness Bracket

Updated on March 16, 2017
calculus-geometry profile image

TR Smith is a product designer and former teacher who uses math in her work every day.

After you fill out your March Madness bracket with your friends, family, or office, the question of how to award points inevitably comes up. There's no right or wrong way to score a bracket so long as everyone in your office pool or betting group agrees. You can use a scoring system used by a major sports site such as ESPN, or make up your own house rules. Here are a some ideas of how to score your college basketball tournament brackets with their pros and cons. Make sure you agree on the method ahead of time, since different scoring systems can produce different winners.


Powers of 2: Yahoo, CBS, ESPN

Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sports, and ESPN all use an exponentially increasing series of points to score correct selections in each of the six rounds. In the table below, Round 1 is the "first" round of 32 games, not the four play-in games. Round 2 is the round of 16 games, Round 3 is 8 games, Round 4 is four games, Round 5 is 2 games (the final four), and Round 6 is the championship game.

Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5
Round 6
1 pt per correct pick
2 pts per correct pick
4 pts per correct pick
8 pts per correct pick
16 pts per correct pick
32 pts for picking the champion

ESPN multiplies these point values by 10, so it's completely equivalent, just with an extra 0 at the end. The major drawback is that it gives too much weight to the championship game, which is not necessarily the hardest to predict. On the plus side, it's a simple bracket scoring system that's easy to remember.


One Point Per Correct Pick

Another system you can use to score your March Madness brackets is to award 1 point for each game called correctly. This is the simplest system of them all, but some people feel it doesn't give enough weight to the games in the later rounds that are harder to call. Should guessing the final four correctly really earn the same number of points as correctly picking the winners of the 1-seed vs. 16-seed games in the first round? That is for you and your bracket group to decide.


Linear Scales and Semi-Linear Scales

Some office pools and friendly bracket competitions favor a linearly or semi-linearly increasing scale of points.These give more points for the later rounds, but the relative weights are not so extreme as the ESPN system, which means your bracket buddies are less likely to complain about how unfair it is when they lose all the later rounds.

 
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5
Round 6
Points
1
2
3
4
5
6
Points
1
2
3
4
6
10
Points
1
3
5
7
10
13

Triangle, Square, Fibonacci, and Prime Number Scoring

Some nerdy people like to use special number sequences to award points for March Madness brackets. Here are scales based on triangular numbers, square numbers, Fibonacci numbers, and primes.

 
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5
Round 6
Points
1
3
6
10
15
21
Points
1
4
9
16
25
36
Points
1
2
3
5
8
13
Points
2
3
5
7
11
13

Bonus Points and Multipliers for Upsets

For some, the most fun scoring system for a March Madness basketball bracket is to award bonus points or use multipliers for picking upsets based on seed numbers. To do this, first pick one of the scoring systems above as the base method, then determine how many extra points to award for picking an upset.

One way is to award a bonus of x points every time a team with a seed number of x beats a better team. For example, if you pick a 12-seed team to beat a 5-seed team, you get 12 extra points if the 12-seed team pulls off an upset.

Another way is to use the seed number difference as a multiplier or bonus. For instance, if a 12-seed team beats a 5-seed team, you multiply your base score by 7 or add 7 to your score.

This bracket scoring system has the advantage of rewarding people who make bold predictions rather than playing it safe.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      So, the odds of a perfect brack are 1 chance out of 2^63?

    • calculus-geometry profile image
      Author

      TR Smith 3 years ago from Eastern Europe

      So they say, but most of the games in the first round aren't 50-50. Your odds are actually closer to 1 out of trillions instead of 1 out of quintillions, to put a positive spin on it.

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Yeah, I think I saw that something like 11 million people entered the contest, and after the first round, less than 2500 were left.

      Random odds for 16 correct coin flips in a row is 1 in 65536 that all would be correct. With 2500 left in the contest implies over 163 million were in it at the start. Even 2000 remaining would imply over

      130 million at start.

      It would seem we are collectively smarter than a random coin flip.

    • profile image

      stag 6 days ago

      We do a bracket for each round separately as the rounds finish, that way you aren't stuck with losers you foolishly pinned your hopes on early in the season. Some people make fun of this way of doing it because it's too forgiving, but I think it's more fun and keeps people interested longer. If you do the bracket the normal way and incorrectly choose half or more of the first round games, you're not going to be as interested in how the other games pan out.

    Click to Rate This Article