march madness for dummies

Last fall, I was all about Fantasy Football and became the commissioner of a girls only fantasy league with my favorite gal pals. It was awesome because most of us had never played fantasy or just didn't follow football that much, so we were all in the same boat. We had a blast talking smack and grabbing drinks for games here and there. Now, it's time for March Madness. I decided to do the same. I started a girls only March Madness bracket with my friends, and asked my wonderful fiancé, Joe, to give me some advice as I'm a complete noob. Below, you'll find his explanation of the tournament, how to create a bracket, and how it all works for (non) dummies like me!




It’s a game, but for many it’s a game that embodies so much more than a final score or a win/loss. It’s a representation of teamwork in the athletic form. It’s a dance, as players spend countless hours perfecting footwork in order to create minute inches of separation between themselves and a competitor. It’s physically exhausting, as the toll of a defensive stance drains energy and the effort put forth for every rebound or loose ball that fatigues a player. And although the importance of team is pivotal for success, this game allows for moments of brilliance to be owned by one individual in various ways during competition. It’s basketball and if that perspective doesn’t get you excited about the game, then Maybe March Madness will.

Ok, cut the drama... what the hell is March Madness and how do I win my money and pride?

March Madness is a single elimination NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament that occurs every year starting in mid-March, ending with a sole champion come early April. 68 teams compete in the tournament, which includes four play-in games that occur before the commonly recognized bracket of 64 teams. Outside of the pure excitement the tournament generates by watching college ballers lay it all on the line, upset victories, and buzzer beaters, a great way to get involved the event is by having a bracket challenge amongst friends or coworkers. The following is the need to know information to get you ready for competing or hosting a bracket pool of your own.


The major players in the online bracket game include ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and CBS Sports. With all of these sites, you will be able to form a league for the 2016 tournament and invite friends or coworkers to join. This way, you will have to do any tallying of points manually as the rounds advance. Once you make your selection on these sites, you are then able to print your bracket making it easier to follow along while watching the games. And of course, what fun are sports unless you are putting a little money on it? Most pools have a buy in fee decided on by whoever is hosting. Payouts usually occur at third place (individual receives buy in amount back), second place (individual makes a profit), and first place (individual takes a majority of the winnings).


Points are awarded to a correct pick of a winning team. During the six total rounds of the tournament points for a correct pick increase as the rounds advance, meaning that the deeper that you get into a tournament the more valuable wins become. See below for scoring explained for most major sites:


There are a few basic things to know about the tournament when filling out your bracket:

  • The bracket consists of four different regions that are made up of the Midwest, West, East, and South

  • Each of these regions consist of 16 different teams, making up the greater 64, which means that there are four identical seeding numbers

  • A "one seed" is an indicator of the best team, while a 16 seed is the worst

  • In the history of the tournament, a one seed has never lost to a 16 seed during the first round, so it’s not a good idea to not pick that as one of your upsets

  • There have been four instances since 1979 where a 15 seed has beaten a two seed in the first round of play

  • 2008 was the only year in which all four one seed made it to the Final Four, meaning that it’s usually a good idea to diversify your seeds which you believe will advance

  • The lowest seed to win the tournament was Villanova as an eight seed in 1985

  • Below is a list of schools that have at least three NCAA titles, and are generally seen as schools with strong basketball programs from year to year:

  • UCLA (11 Titles)

  • Kentucky (8 Titles)

  • North Carolina (5 Titles)

  • Duke (5 Titles)

  • Indiana (5 Titles)

  • Connecticut (4 Titles)

  • Louisville (3 Titles)

  • Kansas (3 Titles)

Come tournament time there, there will countless hours of analysts bombarding you with statistics around who is going to win, why, and how you should be filling out your bracket. The irony is that it’s nearly impossible to construct a perfect bracket, and even after the first round of games so-called experts often have a bracket that’s in shambles. My point being, don’t let a limited knowledge set about hoops deter you from wanting to get in on the action. This is arguably the best sporting event in existence, and the unpredictability of play with college athletes makes it more entertaining. Getting involved in a pool is always a good time, and will make your March even more exciting.

Happy picking,



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