March Madness Bracket Contests

Betting on the NCAA Tournament is only getting bigger as the legalization of sports betting spreads. It lasts just a few weeks, but few sporting events capture the attention of the entire country quite like March Madness.

What’s more, it’s an incredibly popular event across Arizona, where the betting action will flow in on Arizona Wildcats odds, who’ve found plenty of NCAA Tournament success. The Arizona State Sun Devils are frequent March Madness participants too, while the Grand Canyon Antelopes and Northern Arizona Lumberjacks have represented the state in the NCAA Tournament as well.

Below find a look at the best March Madness bracket contests at legal AZ online sportsbooks plus some tips to consider and mistakes to avoid when filling out your bracket.

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Intro to March Madness brackets

A March Madness bracket contest entails picking the winners of each potential matchup from the first round all the way to the National Championship Game. That’s 63 total games. Once brackets are submitted, participants root for the teams they picked and for their predictions to be as accurate as possible. In the end, the winner is determined by the contest’s given scoring system. There are increasingly more variations to the more traditional March Madness bracket challenge, and we’ll get to some of the different formats later in this article.

If you’ve participated in bracket challenges in the past, maybe it was through a sports website with your friends or family, or somebody had paper copies and kept score for the group. Soon, there will be plenty of legal Arizona sportsbooks offering both free and paid bracket contests.

Through some of the most popular sportsbooks in the United States, you will have the opportunity to bet on the entire bracket or individual games throughout the tournament.

One of the pros for betting on a bracket is the randomness and high number of possible outcomes. If you’ve ever participated in a bracket challenge, you know there is quite a bit of luck involved regardless whether you actually follow or bet on college basketball. To give yourself a better chance at a winner, many bracket contests will allow competitors to fill out multiple brackets.

Another positive about competing in a bracket contest is all participants are invested in just about every game during the NCAA Tournament, especially in the early rounds. The single-elimination format of March Madness lends itself to highly compelling matchups in a do-or-die scenario every game. Upsets happen all the time, part of March Madness’ beauty.

Let’s talk flaws as well. Depending on its scoring system and number of competitors, your bracket could be done for if you lose your champion or even a Final Four team in the early rounds. Additionally, handicapping can be impossible in the later rounds because you have no guarantee of any participant. Another difficult aspect of the bracket contest is that participants cannot alter brackets in case of an injury to a star player on a team they might have predicted to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Free March Madness bracket contests

Some of the most recognizable and respected sportsbook brands in the United States, like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and BetMGM, will offer their users free March Madness bracket contests for cash prizes. In addition to the traditional March Madness bracket competitions as described above, some of the sportsbooks offer their own contests for people to win prizes.

DraftKings online sportsbook has offered some unique contests for users of its platforms, including the $1 million DraftKings Survivor Pool. In this contest, participants choose one team to win each day during the NCAA Tournament. If the team wins, you continue with the next day’s slate. If the team loses, you’re eliminated from the contest. You cannot pick the same team twice, so if you run out of new teams to choose from, you are also eliminated. The last person standing is the winner.

Then, the BetMGM betting site offers a $2 million perfect bracket challenge, which is just what it sounds like. If you record a perfect bracket in BetMGM’s contest, you’re $2 million richer. However, it’s highly unlikely anybody will fill out a perfect bracket. Thus, BetMGM offered $100,000 to the person who picked the most NCAA Tournament games correctly last year.

As sportsbooks continue to battle for new users in the United States, expect operators to be more and more creative with their March Madness bet offerings with appealing formats for years to come.

How to enter March Madness bracket contests

If you are looking to enter a NCAA March Madness bracket contest, the process is relatively simple. First, choose the contest that seems right for you. It’s important to do your homework on the different offerings. The legal operators are all quite similar and play by the same rules set by the state, but it’s more about personal preference.

Many bettors will open up sportsbook accounts at multiple sites to receive the best possible odds. That also gives you multiple options in terms of contests.

Once you’ve chosen your favorite sportsbook, download its app, which is very likely available on iOS and Android devices. After clicking on the option to register or sign up, fill out some of your personal information, such as your name, address, email, phone number, Social Security number, and driver’s license number.

After agreeing to all the terms and conditions, you can deposit money into your account and find the bets you’d like to place or March Madness bracket contests you’d like to enter. Let the fun and entertainment begin.

How do March Madness brackets pay out?

It is very important to read the rules and regulations for every bracket contest you enter, especially if there’s a fee. Sportsbooks can differ with their scoring systems for March Madness contests, but there is one system that appears to be the most popular: below, you’ll find the number of points received for correctly predicting games in each round of the NCAA Tournament.

  • Round 1: 1 point
  • Round 2: 2 points
  • Round 3 (Sweet 16): 4 points
  • Round 4 (Elite Eight): 8 points
  • Round 5 (Final Four): 16 points
  • Round 6 (Championship): 32 points

While many operators will use this points system, they may vary. For example, some scoring systems will offer more of an incentive to choose upsets. Some simply have different point totals for each round than the system shown above. Check the March Madness bracket rules before entering the contests, and reach out to customer support with any questions involving your sports wagering experience.

Three March Madness bracket picking pro-tips

Now that we’ve gone through some of the basics of March Madness bracket contests, let’s get you ready for the next NCAA Tournament with some tips on filling out that bracket.

  • Pick upsets: If you are participating in a group of more than just a few people, you are highly unlikely to win if you choose only the higher seeds. Upsets are going to happen in the NCAA Tournament every year. If you hit on the right ones, you’ll feel like a genius and set yourself ahead of the pack.
  • Look at point spreads in Round 1: Early on, check out what the oddsmakers are saying about a particular matchup. The NCAA Tournament field is selected mostly by regular-season resumés, not necessarily by how good teams currently are. For example, you may notice a No. 11 seed that is only a two-point underdog against the No. 6 seed. That’s where a calculated risk can be made when predicting upsets. That may be a tough and ready No. 11 seed.
  • Pick an elite team to win it all: While upsets are fun and exciting in the early rounds, it’s very unlikely the tournament’s Cinderella advances to the Final Four, let alone the national title. Go with the elite programs to win the championship.

Three rookie March Madness bracket mistakes

Now, let’s look at some bracket pitfalls to avoid.

  • Avoid going upset-heavy: As mentioned earlier, it’s important to pick your spots with the lower-seeded teams. However, there is a thin line between picking too many upsets and not enough. Overall, teams are seeded higher for a reason. They will likely have the advantage more often than not.
  • Never pick a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed: In the history of the NCAA Tournament, only one time has a No. 16 taken down the top seed of the region. When the University of Maryland, Baltimore County blew out Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, it was one of the most stunning upsets in sports history. You know why? Because it never happened before, and not since either. Don’t make miracles part of your annual strategy.
  • Don’t bet with your heart: Whether you are looking at your favorite team or your favorite team’s rival, you should be objective when picking schools if you actually intend to win a bracket. If you truly think your team has the talent to make a deep NCAA Tournament run, go for it. If not, it’s OK (read: smarter) to predict your favorite team will see an early exit.

Second-chance brackets

For those of us who may or may not have had much success in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, sportsbooks try to keep as many people invested as possible with second-chance brackets.

These usually go live following after the first and second rounds when there are fewer games to choose from. This also usually means prizes will not be as significant. DraftKings Sportsbook has offered Irish Spring 2nd Chance Bracket Contest, which starts with the Sweet 16 through the title game. Sportsbooks will always look for more opportunities to keep their users occupied, especially with competition growing in the industry.

2022 March Madness schedule and location

The past two NCAA Tournaments have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the hope is March Madness will return to normal in 2022. The First Four will take place March 15-16 from Dayton, Ohio with the first round games on March 17-18 and the second round games on March 19-20 from a variety of locations. These include Buffalo, New York; Indianapolis, Indiana; Fort Worth, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Greenville, South Carolina; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and San Diego, California.

The Sweet 16 is scheduled for March 24-25, with the Elite Eight on March 26-27 from San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Final Four is April 2, with the National Championship on April 4 from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Betting on single games during March Madness

If you are interested in wagering on single games during the NCAA Tournament, sportsbooks will offer plenty of odds on the major categories, including the moneyline, point spread and total for every single game.

March Madness brackets FAQs

When are March Madness brackets due?

Check your contest rules for the exact information, but many bracket challenges will require all brackets to be completed prior to the opening round commencing.

How are March Madness brackets scored?

This is another item to confirm with your sportsbook, but the traditional scoring system looks like this:

  • Round 1: 1 point
  • Round 2: 2 points
  • Round 3 (Sweet 16): 4 points
  • Round 4 (Elite Eight): 8 points
  • Round 5 (Final Four): 16 points
  • Round 6 (Championship): 32 points

Is there a maximum number of brackets I can enter?

There will likely be a cap on how many brackets can be entered into a contest. Operators will set their own rules in the event the participants want to submit multiple entries.

How many possible outcomes are there for March Madness brackets?

If we said every team had a 50 percent chance of winning a game in all 63 NCAA Tournament games, there would be 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 potential outcomes, which can also be said as 9.2 quintillion.

What are the odds for a perfect bracket?

As we suggested above, there is a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of predicting a perfect bracket. But with some basketball knowledge and common sense, DePaul University math professor Jeff Bergen said the odds are more like one in 128 billion. That’s because the games are obviously not true coin flips. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, a smart college basketball bettor can lower those betting odds to one in two billion. Regardless, it’s incredibly difficult and unlikely to happen.

What percentage of brackets are busted after the first round?

It’s difficult to give an exact percentage, but if the bracket is a total loss after Round 1, that likely means the person who filled it out was not taking the contest seriously. That person probably chose multiple No. 15 and 16 seeds to advance, or they were simply on the wrong end of some of the biggest upsets of the NCAA Tournament’s first round.