About Our Brackets
68 teams. The Final Four. One national champion. That all sounds simple enough, but guess what?
There are one hundred forty-seven quintillion possible ways to fill out an NCAA bracket. So how should you fill yours out?
We've spent years agonizing over this question, and our answer is driven by two guiding principles:
1) The bracket you fill out is ultimately your decision. While your picks should be tailored to fit the dynamics of the pool you’re in, at some level they also need to reflect your view of the NCAA tournament and your personal goals and beliefs. Your bracket picks should inspire confidence and make you proud.
2) We can help you identify value opportunities that substantially improve your odds to win a pool. Our goal is to position your bracket picks so that you have the best chance to come in first place. If you’re willing to follow the strategies required to do that, we can give you a major edge over your competition. Often, the strategies we employ involve making counter-intuitive or unpopular picking decisions.
The Data And Method Behind Our Madness
Our process of assessing brackets is simple in theory but complex behind the scenes. It’s all driven by computers crunching large amounts of data. In short, we use a combination of algorithmic predictions of the NCAA tournament, Vegas odds, and data on public picking trends. We use all this information to simulate two key things -- who your opponents are likely to pick and how the tournament is likely to play out.
Once we do that, we can again leverage computation to determine what your optimal bracket picking strategy should be.
As an example, let's say you're in a 50-person pool that uses ESPN's standard scoring system (1-2-4-8-16-32 points per winning pick, by round). What’s your best strategy to win that pool?
To figure out the answer, we first simulate how your 49 opponents will each fill out his or her bracket. Obviously, we’re never going to get this perfectly right, but by leveraging published data on public bracket picking trends from national sites like ESPN and Yahoo!, we can do a better job than you might think.
Then we simulate the actual NCAA tournament, using win probabilities derived from several top predictive systems -- not just ours -- as well as tournament related Las Vegas odds. We run thousands of simulations and develop a deep understanding of the probabilities of the tournament playing out various different ways.
Translating It All Into Bracket Picks
At this point, we have the information we need to forecast your odds to win this pool. If you handed us a bracket you had filled out, we could tell you how many points we expect that bracket to score, how many points we expect each of the other 49 people in your pool to score, and what your odds are to beat all 49 of them.
Since we’re swell guys, though, we do all the bracket picking and assessment work for you. We create many sets of bracket picks and test them all until we have found the best one -- that magical bracket that maximizes your odds to beat all 49 opponents. We can tell you what that bracket’s estimated odds to win the pool are, as well as your expected return on investment from playing that bracket sheet, assuming you’re in a winner-takes-all contest.
Want A Second Opinion?
Still, no matter how much rocket science goes into our bracket picking technology and approach, there’s no such thing as a perfect set of picks. It will always take both luck and skill to win a decently sized pool. In some cases, for instance, the “best bracket” that results from our simulations (let’s say it has 7.5% odds to win a 50-person pool, almost four times the average bracket picker’s expected win rate) may only be a miniscule amount better than the second best bracket, which happens to feature a few different key picks. Both brackets have highly positive expectations, but both aren’t going to win.
In addition, you may look at our best bracket for a given pool size and think, “These guys are nuts.” Having done this for years, we know that some percentage of users are always going to disagree with one or more of the key picks in our best bracket. Perhaps you want to incorporate your own personal hunches or pool quirks into your picking process, or perhaps you think that we're not picking enough upsets early on.
Unfortunately, most of the doubts and complaints we hear about our expert brackets tend to relate to the fact that some people just don't have a great grasp of the implications of popular bracket scoring systems or value-driven picking strategies. If your scoring system only gives you one measly point for picking a first-round winner, it is absolute folly to think that you need to pick a bunch of upsets in the first round (and eliminate early on some teams that have potential to make a deep run) just because some first round upsets happen every year. That's not playing the odds intelligently. In smaller pools especially, the reward is simply not worth the risk.
However, there are a number of additional dynamics we do feel it's worth addressing in our various expert brackets, to give users more choice. For instance, maybe you think Big East teams are going to dominate this year, or that the Big Ten is going to choke. Maybe you live in the heart of the Bluegrass state, and you’re willing to bet that 90% of people in your pool will pick Kentucky to win it all. Maybe you’re convinced that Tom Izzo has Michigan State primed and ready to cut down the nets this year, but you’re not quite sure how to optimize the rest of the picks in your bracket.
We’ve Got A Bracket For That
Maybe you think the Big East is going to dominate this year. Maybe you live in the heart of the Bluegrass state, and you’re willing to bet that 90% of people in your pool will pick Kentucky to win it all. Maybe you’re convinced that Tom Izzo has Michigan State primed and ready to cut down the nets this year, but you’re not quite sure how to optimize the rest of the picks in your bracket.
The good news is, we’re prepared for these situations. Our technology does the heavy lifting to optimize brackets for all of these additional cases and constraints. In addition to producing overall best brackets, our system can find the best option for completing a bracket if you’re dead set on picking a specific team as the NCAA champion, or if you want to give a boost to a specific conference, or if you want to adjust your opponents’ expected picks to be more biased toward a specific team. Computers are amazing!
The end result is not one, not a few, but hundreds of targeted brackets, each optimized for a specific pool size, scoring system, and potentially other constraints. Plus, we give you sorting and filtering functionality to quickly navigate to a short list of brackets you should consider for your circumstances. You get much smarter bracket picks, you get options to choose from, and you get a ready-to-play bracket sheet in seconds.
Giving You The Power of Choice
We’re excited to share the fruits of our labor with you, as it’s taken us years to develop and refine our bracket picking tools, and we’re convinced they’re far more advanced and objective than most anything else out there. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions for improvement, don’t hesitate to let us know.
And if you’re ready to sign up, go ahead and get BracketBrains now.
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