Explaining March Madness Bracket Scoring Systems

Last Updated: September 19, 2022
NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness, is considered one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. Here we discuss how March Madness Bracket scoring systems.
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March is good for two things, The NCAA Tournament and St. Patricks Day. In 2022, we get the best of both worlds as the First Round of March Madness is set to begin on St. Patricks Day.

The NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness, is a single-elimination tournament of 68 teams competing in seven rounds for the National Championship. It is considered one of the most exciting sporting events of the year.

Tournament Schedule:

  • First Four: March 15-16.
  • First round: March 17-18.
  • Second round: March 19-20.
  • Sweet 16: March 24-25.
  • Elite Eight: March 26-27.
  • Final Four: April 2.
  • NCAA championship game: April 4.

How To Fill Out March Madness Brackets

March Madness has increased its popularity in recent years because of the legalization of sports betting. Betting on March Madness games adds to the drama and excitement of the tournament.

When it comes to March Madness, filling out your bracket is the main attraction. Fans can predict which teams win and advance each round until a National Champion has been crowned.

Filling out your bracket is as simple as it sounds; choose a winner of each game starting from the first round to the Nation Championship game.

The winner with the most points at the end of the tournament wins. Scoring varies from site to site which, we will explain the different scoring systems we have come across.

Different Scoring Systems for March Madness Brackets

Scoring can be confusing at first but can be easily understood once you see how it works. 

For every game you predict the winner correctly, you will receive a point value. That point value increases as you advance each round. Scoring can vary from site to site below, and you can see an example below of how some of the most popular sites score their brackets.

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Alt-Text: Different Scoring Systems for March Madness Brackets

CBS, FoxSports, NCAA.com, and Yahoo use the same scoring system, and ESPN uses a higher scoring scale.

Here is an example using Yahoo’s scoring system

1st Round (32 games) – Picked 18 winners = 18 points

2nd Round (16 games) – Pickd 11 winners = 22 points

3rd Round (8 games) – Picked 5 Winners = 20 points

4th Round (4 games) – Picked 2 winners = 16 points

5th Round (2 games) – Picked 1 winner = 16 points

6th Round (1 game) – Picked 1 winner = 32 points

Total amount of points earned is 124 Points. 

By using ESPN’s scoring, your points would look like this:

1st Round (32 games) – Picked 18 winners = 180 points

2nd Round (16 games) – Pickd 11 winners = 220 points

3rd Round (8 games) – Picked 5 Winners = 200 points

4th Round (4 games) – Picked 2 winners = 160 points

5th Round (2 games) – Picked 1 winner = 160 points

6th Round (1 game) – Picked 1 winner = 320 points

Total amount of points earned is 1,240 Points.

The winner with the most combined points at the end of the tournament wins.

**Note: The First Four games are not usually included in the tournament scoring.

Scoring The Perfect Bracket 

Filling out the perfect bracket is almost impossible. If you are using a coin flip to determine your bracket, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillions. If you know college basketball, your odds improve to 1 in 120.2 billion.

NCAA basketball

Below are three tips to help you fill out your bracket.

Pick The Right Upsets

Picking upset may help you pull away from your group, but you will end up at the bottom of the pack if you choose too many. Ideally, pick no more than 12-14 upsets throughout the tournament.

Let’s start with a very simple tip for picking the right upsets in your brackets; taking a #16 to beat a #1 seed is not one of them. Do not have a #1 seed losing in the first round, and it only happened once in the tournament history in 2018.

One matchup you can take advantage of is the #5 Vs. #12 games. Historically, 12 seeds win this game nearly 36% of the time. Other matchups with upset potentials are #7 Vs. #10, and #6 Vs. #11. 

The second round is where the “Bracket Busters” show their face. It’s only happened twice since 1997 that all four #2 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16, so you should be looking to eliminate at least one #2 seed in the second round. 

Bet On A #1 Seed

Again, do not have a #1 seed losing in the first round. #1 seeds have won four straight National Championships, including eight in the last 11 years.

While #1 Seeds have had success, don’t be the square in your pool that puts all four #1 seeds into the Final Four. It’s only happened once in the history of the tournament.

Offense Wins Championships

We all heard the old adage, “defense wins championships”, and while that may be true, you need a great offense to win the NCAA Tournament. 

In the past eight March Madness winners, seven had top 10 offenses, and 5 of 8 had top 5 offenses per Kenpom Ratings.

What’s The Best Scoring System For Your Bracket?

If you are newer to March Madness are looking to go old school, keep scoring yourself; I would stick to the standard scoring we saw above using Yahoo’s scoring scale. It will be easier to calculate and follow as the tournament goes on.

If you are joining a site like ESPN, Yahoo, NCAA.com, the good news is they calculate all the points for you automatically. You just need to fill out your bracket and sit back and enjoy the madness.

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Written by Allison Langstone

Allison produces content for a business SAAS but also contributes to EarthWeb frequently, using her knowledge of both business and technology to bring a unique angle to the site.