How to fill out a men's March Madness 2024 bracket: All the basics so you can join the madness (2024)

  • How to fill out a men's March Madness 2024 bracket: All the basics so you can join the madness (1)

    ESPN staffMar 11, 2024, 12:08 PM ET

Thinking about playing ESPN's Men's Tournament Challenge game but don't know where to start?

We completely understand. Getting up to speed on college basketball for the NCAA Tournament can be a difficult endeavor.

But don't worry, filling out your bracket doesn't have to be a daunting task. All you need are a few quick tips to get initiated into the time-honored tradition of "joining the madness" and have a chance to win the grand prize!

The selection show is on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, so get ready for the madness!

Playing is simple

1. Go to Men's Tournament Challenge.
2. Click "Create a Bracket."
3. Fill out your bracket (you can use "Quick Bracket" to fill one out in seconds with Autofill, Random, Smart Bracket).

Other things you can do:

1. Click "Create Another Bracket" from the confetti screen (or on the Dashboard tab, or on the bottom bar when viewing your saved bracket) and create up to 25 brackets.
2. (Optional) Join/Create a Group.
3. (Optional) Rename your bracket. On the "My Brackets" tab click the gear icon to the right of your bracket name.

Autofill bracket options

  • Chalk (all favorites): Take the higher seed (1, 2, etc.) in every matchup, automatically, and hope for no upsets!

  • Random: It's like flipping a coin for each and every game! We'll randomly select a winner for you in each game.

  • Smart Bracket (powered by BPI Simulation): Using ESPN's Basketball Power Index to break down the games, we'll generate a bracket for you.

Other bracket options

  • Finish For Me: Started your brackets but don't have the time to finish? Keep your current picks and let the computer fill in the rest. You can choose for the computer to make either random selections or to use the Smart Bracket system to make selections.

Help with making your picks

  • Seeds are there for a reason: The brackets are not created by randomly picking teams out of a hat -- the best teams are 1-seeds and the worst are 16-seeds. The selection committee tries its best to balance the field by making sure the best teams don't have to face each other until the later stages of the tournament. The chances of all four 1-seeds making it to the Final Four are considerably better than the chances of four 11-seeds making it there. So, when in doubt, go with the chalk pick (the better-seeded team).

  • Upsets do happen: In 2018, for the first time ever, a 16-seed defeated a 1-seed (UMBC over Virginia) -- and did so in blowout fashion, winning by 20 points. Additionally, an 11-seed (Loyola-Chicago) made it all the way to the Final Four. For whatever reason, traditionally, 12-seeds have far exceeded expectations against 5-seeds, which is why it is commonplace to see Tournament Challenge participants select at least one 12-seed to advance at least a couple of rounds.

  • Unpredictability is par for the course: In 2019, 12-seeded Oregon and 13-seeded UC Irvine both pulled off upsets and ended up squaring off for a chance to make the Sweet 16. However, apart from that game, only one other team outside of chalk (5-seeded Auburn) made it to the second week of play. The moral of the story: Don't be afraid to pick upsets, but don't pick too many. Although a Cinderella always seems to crash the ball, there aren't that many glass slippers to pass around.

  • Traditional powers do tend to rise to the top: Villanova has won twice in the past seven tournaments. UConn has done it twice in the past nine tournaments. Kansas, North Carolina and Duke have also won it all during the past decade. Nobody should be surprised when perennial top-10 darlings make deep runs. They're called traditional powers for a reason.

  • Don't get too caught up with a team's record: You're likely to see a few teams with 17-plus wins squaring off with teams that are barely over .500. You're also likely to discover that the team with the worse record has a better seed. The reason for this is that not all teams play against the same level of competition. Good teams from smaller conferences (which are likely to get only a single team into the tournament) might load up on wins over lesser competition compared with middle-of-the-pack teams from power conferences (which will "get credit" for playing a tougher schedule). You can either trust the seeding process, which does get it right far more often than not, or take a look at BPI, which ranks all the teams while factoring in the vast imbalance in scheduling.

  • The winner of these contests is often surprising: You can crunch all the numbers, analyze all the stats, memorize all the rosters and watch every single minute of ESPN's Champ Week to scout schools from less-publicized conferences; at the end of the day, once the ball is tipped, anything is possible. The person who gets his or her arm twisted into filling out a bracket and decides to pick only teams with animals as their mascots can end up with the trophy. That's what makes this such a fun ride. Get on board!

How to fill out a men's March Madness 2024 bracket: All the basics so you can join the madness (2024)
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