2021 NCAA Tournament Bracket Advice: Four best strategy tips for winning March Madness pools

During March Madness, one factor is definite. You’re going to listen to plenty of very unhealthy strategy recommendation and tips for making NCAA Tournament bracket picks. Some of it’s going to even come from probably the most revered names within the faculty basketball world.

Sometimes it may be troublesome to separate the sign from the noise with regards to bracket strategy. Still, it pays to know the distinction. Quite a lot of typical knowledge about bracket choosing is simply plain unsuitable, and following it’s going to torpedo your possibilities to win your March Madness pool.

After analyzing public choosing tendencies in previous NCAA tournaments and working thousands and thousands of pc simulations of bracket pools, we all know what the info says about winning bracket pool strategy. Here are 4 issues it’s good to do to present your self an edge in your March Madness bracket contest this 12 months.

Editor’s Note: This is a visitor submit from, a website that has supplied skilled bracket choose recommendation since 2004. Since 2017, their subscribers have reported over $1.7 million in bracket pool prize winnings utilizing their NCAA Bracket Picks.


NCAA Tournament Bracket Advice: Best strategy tips for winning March Madness pools

Consider How Your Opponents Are Likely To Pick

In bracket pools, there is no such thing as a prize for getting a sure variety of picks appropriate. You are competing in opposition to different individuals, and the one solution to win is to complete with the next rating than your entire opponents. You can solely get the next rating in the event you get a choose proper that your opponents get unsuitable. (Of course, it helps probably the most if that choose is value plenty of factors.)

This dynamic has massive implications for bracket choosing strategy as a result of it implies that the picks your opponents make have a significant affect in your odds to win your pool. If you merely choose the identical groups that everybody else is choosing, you are not going to have an excellent probability to win. Consequently, you must by no means fill out your bracket with out factoring in your best guesses of what your opponents are more likely to do.

For instance, in case you are in an NCAA bracket pool stuffed with Michigan graduates, you must assume that Michigan can be a very talked-about choose in your pool and take into consideration how one can assemble a sensible bracket that does not characteristic Michigan as a crucial choose.

Thinking extra broadly, you also needs to seek the advice of nationwide bracket choosing tendencies information printed by main bracket contest websites like ESPN and Yahoo to realize a common understanding of the groups on which the general public is closely concentrated. (To get a balanced image, we consolidate bracket picking trends data from multiple sites.)

Ideally, you are trying to determine groups which have a stable probability to win the tourney — or a minimum of make a deep run — which can be additionally being underrated by the general public. To do that, you may want an goal and reliable supply of event predictions, resembling betting odds or our algorithmic projections, that you would be able to evaluate to public choosing tendencies.

For instance, If a workforce has an 18-percent probability to win the event however solely 10 % of the general public is choosing it to take action, you’ve got discovered your self an unpopular workforce that deserves your consideration.

Still, there are limits to this logic. Should you keep away from choosing each overrated workforce? No. Very fashionable picks are normally fashionable for an excellent motive — as a result of they’re robust groups. And having a lot of robust groups lose early in your bracket is normally too dangerous of a strategy. However, in lots of pools, making an informed gamble on one or two underrated (but stable) groups to make a deeper run than most individuals suppose they are going to can considerably assist your trigger.


Don’t Pick Too Many Upsets In Your Bracket

Picking too many upsets is the poison that dooms many brackets. We know, it’s March Madness, and all of us fondly bear in mind the previous Cinderella tales. Everyone desires of choosing the following Loyola-Chicago, who captured the nation’s consideration by making an inconceivable run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in 2018.

However, hindsight is 20/20. Noting {that a} longshot workforce (say, a No. 5 seed or worse) makes the Final Four pretty typically is one factor; appropriately predicting a selected longshot workforce to make the Final Four in any given 12 months is a complete totally different beast. Your odds of doing it aren’t good, and the stakes are excessive. If a comparatively fashionable choose makes the Final Four as an alternative of your longshot choose, you are going to quit plenty of factors to plenty of your opponents.

In reality, one of many largest causes that our algorithmic bracket picks constantly outperform the general public is as a result of many bracket pool gamers get too dangerous with their picks within the earlier rounds. When getting later-round picks appropriate is value many extra factors in most bracket pool scoring methods, having a extremely seeded workforce lose early can lower your anticipated rating fairly a bit.

Don’t simply take our phrase for it, although. Back in 2009, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology published a study about NCAA event predictions. The professors who studied picks from the general public got here to an identical conclusion — particularly, that merely choosing the higher-seeded workforce in each matchup would have outscored the nationwide common bracket rating on ESPN.

Thankfully, there are simpler choose methods than simply choosing the higher-seeded workforce, however you get the purpose. Plenty of proof exists to refute the narrative that it’s good to choose a bunch of upsets and get them proper in an effort to do nicely in your NCAA pool.

With that stated, there are just a few exceptions, resembling in case your pool provides bonus factors for getting upset picks appropriate. Which leads us to the following piece of recommendation…


Adjust Your Pick Strategy for Your Pool’s Size

The recommendation to not make too many upset picks applies to nearly all of bracket pools. It’s an particularly sensible strategy for pools that use the commonest scoring format (1-2-4-8-16-32 factors per appropriate choose, by spherical) and do not have greater than 100 or so entries.

However, in the event you’re in a a lot bigger NCAA pool, or one which makes use of a nontraditional scoring system resembling upset choose bonuses, the optimum choose strategy doubtless adjustments. In phrases of pool measurement, the bigger your pool, the extra danger you usually have to take together with your picks to maximise your possibilities of winning. Let’s look at why.

In a small pool (say 20 entries or much less), there may solely be just a few different brackets with the identical championship choose as you. As a consequence, in the event you get your championship choose proper and have adopted a sensible (i.e. extra conservative) choose strategy within the early rounds, you may have an excellent shot to win the pool. The odds are low that considered one of your opponents will each get the champion choose proper and outperform you within the earlier rounds.

However, while you’re competing in opposition to 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 individuals, that is now not the case. In massive pools, the chances are a lot larger that one or just a few entries will nail each the NCAA champion choose and some loopy upset picks within the earlier rounds (resembling a 7-seed to the Final Four as a result of it was their alma mater), simply by dumb luck. In the worst case, if a preferred champion choose wins the event, it should be extraordinarily troublesome to outscore each one of many a whole lot of entries in an enormous pool that picked them.

As a consequence, rising your odds to win an enormous pool typically requires taking some vital dangers, resembling choosing a really unpopular 4-seed to win all the event. The odds of that taking place are additionally low, however on steadiness, our data-driven bracket research has proven that it is typically a better guess than choosing a extra fashionable champion. If your unpopular choose does win, even in an enormous pool, there’ll doubtless solely be just a few different individuals in place to win the pool together with you.


Adjust Your Pick Strategy for Your Pool’s Scoring System

The commonest bracket pool scoring system awards 1-2-4-8-16-32 factors per spherical. However, many variations exist, and nonstandard scoring methods can name for a a lot totally different choose strategy.

For instance, in case you are in a pool that awards factors based mostly on the distinction in seed quantity between the winning and dropping workforce, you’ll rating eight factors for choosing a 12-seed to beat a 5-seed within the first spherical in comparison with scoring just one level for choosing the 5-seed to win. As it seems, most 12-seeds have win odds a lot better than 12.5 % (one divided by eight) and are subsequently good values to choose on this scoring system from an expected-points gained perspective.

We even see some pools the place scoring is predicated on the spherical quantity multiplied by the seed quantity. In that type of pool, appropriately choosing a 10-seed to make the Sweet 16 yields a whopping 30 factors, whereas appropriately choosing a 1-seed to win the nationwide title will get you solely 21 factors as compared. In that system, choosing a lot of double-digit seeds to make the Sweet 16 is a really good danger. Even if solely a few them find yourself making it, you may nonetheless earn a ton of factors.

That’s why it is so necessary to take the time to grasp the implications of your pool’s guidelines. While most gamers choose too many upsets in the usual bracket pool scoring system, they typically do not choose sufficient upsets in upset-bonus methods. Year after 12 months, we see the optimum brackets for commonplace scoring methods chided by the general public as being too conservative, whereas the optimum brackets for upset bonus methods are derided for being far too loopy trying.

Winning an NCAA bracket pool is not straightforward, however by protecting these 4 strategy tips in thoughts, you may keep away from a few of the widespread pitfalls to which uninformed bracket pickers fall prey. As we prefer to say, the smarter your strategy is, the much less luck it’s good to win.

Finally, in the event you’re serious about outsourcing all this strategy formulation and quantity crunching to the professionals and simply getting the bracket that provides you the best probability to win your pool, be certain that to take a look at our 2021 NCAA Bracket Picks product.


In 2019, 71 % of TeamRankings subscribers reported winning a prize of their NCAA bracket pool.

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