How to Score March Madness Brackets


In 2011 the men's NCAA basketball tournament expanded to 68 teams, which created four play-in games where eight teams battled for four spots in the eventual field of 64 teams. Once the field of 64 is set, 32 games are played over the first two days (Thursday and Friday) of the tournament and 16 games over the third and fourth days (Friday and Saturday) of the tournament, reducing the field to 16 teams. The second week of the tournament reduces the field to the Final Four. The two national semifinals are played the next Saturday and the national champion is crowned the first Monday in April.

  • Assign a point value for the first round of the tournament, which has 32 games
    • ESPN's bracket challenge in 2011 awarded 10 points for each game correctly selected in the first round
    • You can use 10, or if you want to deal with smaller totals you can start with two points for each correct selection in round one
    • If you use a 10-point system there are 320 possible points; if a bracket correctly picks 28 of the 32 games that bracket would earn 280 points for round one
  • Double the points for each correct selection in round two, which is comprised of 16 games
    • Using a 10-point base, doubling the points in round two to 20 points for each correct pick, you again have a possible 320 points
    • Take the points earned in round one and add them to points earned in round two
  • Award 40 points for each correct selection in the third round
    • Take the sum of rounds one and two and add them to points earned in the third round
  • Each correct selection in the fourth round is awarded 80 points
    • Here you take the sum of the first three rounds and add that to points earned in round four
  • Award 160 points for each correct selection for the national semifinal games
    • Take the sum from the first four rounds and add it to points earned from the national semifinals
  • Any player who correctly selects the national champion would be awarded 320 points
    • Take the sum of the first five rounds and add it to points from the final round and you have the total points for the bracket

Alternate Scoring

Award players who make bold selections. Each team in the NCAA basketball tournament is assigned a seeding from 1-16. In traditional scoring a player receives the same 10 points for a Number 1 seed winning a first-round game as he does for selecting a Number 12 seed. Seeding scoring adds seed points to traditional scoring.

Kansas, a 1 seed, defeated Boston University, a 16 seed, in the first round of the 2011 tournament.

  • In seed scoring the correct players would receive 11 points: 10 points for the round win and one point for the seed
  • Richmond was a 12 seed in 2011 and defeated Vanderbilt in the first round; Richmond's win would be worth 22 points: 10 points for the round win and an additional 12 for the seed points

Seed points are earned for each round. When Richmond won its second-round game in 2011 over Morehead State that correct selection was worth 32 points using the seed method. Seed scoring is cumulative of all rounds just like traditional scoring with the ability to earn more point by correctly selecting lower seeded teams.


Using the 10-point per round scoring method allows you to have a simple check on your math. Each round has a possible 320 points. A perfect bracket, one where all 63 games are selected correctly, would earn 1,920 points.


Using the seed option scoring system is more complicated than traditional scoring and requires the pool manager to be careful when awarding points. There is no math check in the seed option.