How to Fill Out Your March Madness Bracket

Mike Rosenberg
Mike Rosenberg
Content Writer
Last Updated: Mar 20, 2024, 10:01 AM

March Madness 2024

The NCAA Tournament stands out as one of the most thrilling sporting events of the year. It features a showdown between 64 teams, each vying to be the last team standing in a head-to-head NCAA basketball tournament format. Diehard and casual fans alike compete in bracket prediction contests in hopes of picking the perfect bracket.

Filling out a March Madness bracket is about having fun and enjoying the spectacle that is the three-week stretch of the NCAA Tournament. This article will help guide you by providing bracket selection strategies, discussing common challenges that arise during the process, and highlighting important statistical trends to consider before moving select teams through every round.

Filling Out a March Madness Bracket

March Madness Bracket

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One of the greatest aspects of filling out a March Madness bracket is that anything can, and usually does, happen. One only has to look at the results of last year’s tournament which saw a number of dark horses bust brackets as early as the first round. In the entire history of the NCAA Tournament, nobody has been able to successfully pick every single game correctly when filling out a March Madness bracket. Be prepared to have every major media outlet attempt to get a hold of you should you become the first!

The following are the basic steps towards filling out a bracket and being a part of what’s become March Madness:

  1. Download our printable March Madness bracket.
  2. Choose teams and predict the winners in every round.

Although numerous factors are involved in effectively selecting the winner of a March Madness bracket competition, these three actions are fundamentally the essence of the entire phenomenon. 

Bracket Strategies for March Madness

Making bracket selections can seem overwhelming, but with a systematic approach, you can make informed decisions. Here are some key steps to follow:

Opening Rounds

Begin by predicting the winners of first-round matchups. While upsets are always a possibility, history has shown it to generally be good practice to select higher seeds in the early rounds.

  • To gain a better understanding of the teams involved in March Madness, conduct research on their records, strengths, weaknesses, and key players. Take into account highly esteemed ranking sites like KenPom or Haslametrics which college basketball bettors utilize on a daily basis. 
  • Sportsbook betting lines, performances in conference tournaments, and any prior matchups between teams should also be taken into account.
  • Pay attention to the recent form of teams leading up to the tournament. Take note of any winning streaks, slumps, or injuries to key players as these can have a significant impact on team confidence and momentum.
  • As tempting as it may be to correctly predict the next Cinderella story that captivates March Madness audiences, striking a balance between riskier upset picks and safer choices is key to help avoid potential pitfalls and increase chances for success.

Sweet 16 & Beyond

The next wave of rounds through the title game will take some more research to come to a decision on which teams to push through your March Madness bracket. Utilize these steps to move the decision process along.

  • Seek out matchups where one team possesses a distinct advantage over the other. This advantage could stem from superior skills, experience, or a noticeable superiority in offense, defense, or other measurable statistics. For instance, consider picking a team that excels at shooting 3-pointers against a defense that struggles to defend the perimeter.
  • Be cautious picking upsets but they are common in the tournament. The ability to do so successfully can greatly impact the outcome of your bracket. While history shows it’s important to lean towards the favorites, consider selecting a few well-researched upsets that you believe have a high percentage chance of occurring in these rounds. 
  • Coaching and experience can play a vital role in tournament success. Coaches with extensive tournament experience may have strategies and a deeper understanding of how to guide players in high-pressure situations. This advantage shines through in these rounds.

This is your bracket and your bracket only. Outside influences can help paint a better picture about teams, players, and coaches you might be unfamiliar with, but don’t let those opinions sway you from trusting your gut. Believe that your intuition can often yield accurate predictions. Simply going with the flow and buying into popular frames of mind won’t allow for the separation needed to produce a memorable March Madness experience.

Challenges to Overcome Picking March Madness Brackets

After indulging in fantasies about the improbable chance of selecting a flawless bracket in your office or home league pools, the focus should shift to outperforming fellow March Madness contest participants by correctly predicting more winners in every round. The key is to aim for approximately 50 accurate picks to be positioned among contenders vying to win the pool.

To optimize scores in bracket tournaments, it is crucial to focus on making accurate selections in the later rounds, such as the Sweet 16 and beyond, rather than the initial two rounds, like the Rounds of 64 or 32. Each correct selection earns points, and as the rounds progress, the point allocation increases.

Create a winning strategy to overcome obstacles and put yourself in a position to score the most points by following these guidelines:

Common Challenges

  1. Overvaluing Underdogs: While Cinderella stories are part of the tourney’s allure, it is essential to avoid overvaluing underdogs. Balance your bracket selections with a mix of both higher and lower-seeded teams.
  2. Overreacting to Upsets: They happen, but it’s crucial not to overreact and immediately discount higher-seeded teams after a single surprise result that just occurred in a conference tournament. Let your opponent select the chic upset instead.
  3. Bias and Emotion: It’s natural to have personal biases and emotional attachments to certain coaches, players, teams, or conferences. However, always make objective decisions based on facts, statistics, and performance rather than subjective feelings.
  4. Time Constraints: You have a short window from the moment the March Madness bracket is set until the first game tips off on Thursday. Focus on key matchups, rankings, conference performance, and overall team strengths to make informed decisions efficiently.

Taking these measures will potentially put you in a position to best predict a majority of the teams still alive in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Even if you make a handful of incorrect predictions in the first two rounds, you still have a good chance of creating a successful March Madness bracket as long as you correctly choose the teams that will advance to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and ultimately, the Championship Game.

Recent NCAA Championship Winners

Last year, the Connecticut Huskies won the Championship and are favorites to win again this year. Let's take a look at the winners over the last 24 years:





Connecticut Huskies

No. 4


Kansas Jayhawks

No. 1


Baylor Bears

No. 1


Tournament Canceled (COVID)



Virginia Cavaliers

No. 1


Villanova Wildcats

No. 1


North Carolina Tar Heels

No. 1


Villanova Wildcats

No. 2


Duke Blue Devils

No. 1


Connecticut Huskies

No. 7


Louisville Cardinals

No. 1


Kentucky Wildcats

No. 1


Connecticut Huskies

No. 3


Duke Blue Devils

No. 1


North Carolina Tar Heels

No. 1


Kansas Jayhawks

No. 1


Florida Gators

No. 1


Florida Gators

No. 3


North Carolina Tar Heels

No. 1


Connecticut Huskies

No. 2


Syracuse Orange

No. 3


Maryland Terrapins

No. 1


Duke Blue Devils

No. 1


Michigan State Spartans

No. 1

Looking at the seed rankings of the 23 teams that ultimately went on to win, you’ll notice a majority of the winners came from top seeds, followed by the No. 3, No. 2, and No. 4.

  • No.1 seed (16)
  • No. 2 seed (2).
  • No. 3 seed (3)
  • No. 4 seed (1)
  • Only once did a seed higher than No. 4 win it all.

Those teams received high seeds from the selection committee due to being the best teams in NCAA basketball throughout the regular and conference tournament seasons. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, filling out a March Madness bracket is an exciting and unpredictable experience. While it’s nearly impossible to pick a perfect bracket, following a systematic approach can help make informed decisions to produce a competitive bracket. 

  • Research teams, consider rankings and betting lines, and analyze recent form.
  • Striking a balance between risky upsets and safer choices is strategic.
  • Recognize matchups where one team holds a distinct advantage. 
  • Focus on making accurate selections in the later rounds rather than the initial rounds.
  • Don’t let bias and emotion cloud your judgment. 
  • Favor higher-seeds in early rounds with bold moves considered in certain seed pairings. 
  • Select top-ranked teams to win the NCAA Tournament.

Ultimately, trust your research and your intuition and enjoy the thrill of March Madness, knowing that anything can happen in this highly anticipated tournament. 

FAQs: How to Fill Out Your Bracket

Getting Started
What are the basic steps to fill out a March Madness bracket?
Why is predicting a perfect March Madness bracket so challenging?
Bracket Strategies
How should I approach selecting winners in the opening rounds?
What strategy is recommended for selecting teams in the Sweet 16 and beyond?
Common Challenges
What are some common pitfalls to avoid when filling out a bracket?
Statistical Trends
How important are seed rankings when making bracket selections?
Are there any seeds particularly notorious for causing upsets?
Recent Bracket Winners
How often do top-seeded teams win the NCAA Tournament?
Final Advice
What's the key to making informed bracket selections?
How should personal bias and popular opinion influence my bracket choices?
NCAAF Football

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Sol's interest in sports was sparked at a young age, inspired by athletes such as Barry Sanders, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky. This early fascination evolved into a deep-seated passion, guiding him toward a career in sports journalism in 2007. Over the years, Sol has contributed numerous articles and reviews to various online platforms, sharing his knowledge and perspectives.

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Mike made the decision to dive headfirst into the booming world of sports betting fresh out of college. Back in the day, when 1-800 pick lines and sports pagers were all the rage, he couldn't resist the allure, having grown up idolizing sports legends like Sweetness, MJ, and Slammin Sammy. Mike dedicated his early years to the industry, tirelessly analyzing games, writing articles with free picks, and selling his expertise on reputable handicapping sites. Unlike many others, Mike was known for his integrity and only released one Game of the Year per sport, per season. His hard work and unwavering commitment paid off, earning him a devoted following and propelling his career to new heights. Then came the explosion of Daily Fantasy Sports. Believe it or not, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel used to pay Mike's company to increase their brand exposure. Now, those same industry giants don't even bother responding to his emails. While Mike appreciates the convenience of being able to place legal bets in his own backyard, he can't help but feel disheartened by what has become of the industry. People are being led astray, falsely believing that a mere $5 wager on a 20-team same-game-parlay will be their ticket to financial security. If there’s one thing Mike learned from making book back in the day, it’s that parlays are a bookie’s best friend. A bankroll is the only leg you have to stand on in the battle with the books, and Mike’s here to offer up advice on how to protect it.