During March Madness, play a different kind of bracket pool for the NCAA tournament. USA TODAY Sports Brackets allow your bracket to never get busted.
Ever make an NCAA tournament pick on your bracket and immediately regret it several minutes into the game?
USA TODAY Sports has a new bracket game and it’s the first of its kind to allow fans to switch their picks during live tournament games this March Madness.
That means during last year’s NCAA tournament first-round game between top-seeded Virginia and 16th-seeded UMBC there would’ve been an option to change your pick once it was clear history was on pace to be made. Better yet, once it was clear the No. 1 overall seed was out of the field, you could alter your round of 32, Sweet 16 and Elite picks, and so on.
Want to send a No. 11 seed to the Final Four like Loyola-Chicago did last year but have the safety net of changing it later on if that Cinderella pick fails? Consider this a remedy to being shy on making bracket-busting upset picks.
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With USA TODAY Sports Brackets game, powered by Realtime Brackets, up to nine changes can be made up until the the last TV timeout under 4 minutes in the game. The caveat is that those mid-or-late-game switches won’t count for as many points as a pre-game pick on the bracket. Ultimately, the scoring system for USA TODAY Sports’ bracket game allows for imperfect brackets but also offers much more control over your bracket if a top-seed is playing terrible or if an upset was just a bad read.
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Here’s a look at how to play and how the point system works:
► After Selection Sunday (March 17): Make picks on all 63 early-round games on USA TODAY Sports’ bracket game (found here) before Thursday’s first-round action tips off.
► Then make changes to your picks at any time during games on Thursday and Friday up until the last TV timeout. As long as there’s not some type of wild ending in the last four minutes of a game where you can’t gauge a team’s momentum, there’s a strong probability of getting everything correct.
► Picks are made during halftime or before one of the nine different TV timeouts during a live game (those timeouts are typically during the 16-minute, 12-minute 8-minute and 4-minute marks of each 20-minute half).
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> Like a traditional bracket game, you get a certain number of points for a correct pick and zero points for an incorrect pick.
> Pre-tournament picks will provide the most points, with every changed pick decreasing in points. The possible points that you are eligible to earn for any given correct pick will be determined based on the time at which you entered (or saved) that pick for the final time. The sooner you enter a pick and the longer you stick with that pick, the more points your pick will potentially earn for your bracket.
The general breakdown for points per round on one individual game — without in-game changes — is the following:
- Round of 64: 30pts
- Round of 32: 60pts
- Sweet 16: 120pts
- Elite Eight: 240pts
- Final Four: 480pts
- Title Game: 960pts
A smart rule of thumb to maximize points is to make changes to your bracket after each round ends so that everything’s selected accordingly heading into the next round based on which picks you got right.
Because if you selected Michigan State to win the whole thing but the Spartans were inexplicably upset as a No. 2 seed like they were in 2016 by Middle Tennessee, then you’d have to rearrange that whole region where you had MSU going to the Final Four. In this scenario — making a pick different than Michigan State before the round of 32 games begin — it’d be worth 48 points instead of a correct pick from the beginning (worth 60 points). The rest of the breakdown for those points is the following:
- Round of 32: 48pts
- Sweet 16: 96pts
- Elite Eight: 192pts
- Final Four: 384pts
- Title Game: 768ts
And here’s a look at possible points for picks made live in first-round games, with the rest of the tourney’s rounds following a similar format:
- Between Start of Game & End of 1st Timeout: 29 pts
- Between End of 1st & End 2nd TV Timeout: 28 pts
- Between End of 2nd & End of 3rd TV Timeout: 27 pts
- Between End of 3rd & End of 4th TV Timeout: 26 pts
- Between End of 4th TV Timeout & End of Halftime: 25 pts
- Between End of Halftime & End of 5th TV Timeout: 24 pts
- Between End of 5th & End 6th TV Timeout: 22 pts
- Between End of 6th & End of 7th TV Timeout: 18 pts
- Between End of 7th & End of Last TV Timeout: 12 pts