How to: Fill out a March Madness bracket

The NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday, March 16. (NCAA)

The arrival of spring means one thing: March Madness.

Last year, ESPN estimated that 40 million Americans filled out at least one NCAA Tournament bracket. With the madness beginning on Thursday, March 16, time is running out to fill out that perfect bracket.

What team will be wearing the glass slipper? Which squad is the dark horse candidate? Is this the year a No. 16 seed finally knocks off a No. 1?

There are many questions, but thankfully there are a number of tools available for lifelong fans and new beginners alike.

People can even play against the Universe staff, by joining our ESPN Bracket Challenge group.

Create an entry

From the game’s homepage, log in using an ESPN account (or make one for free) and click the “Create an Bracket” button. Then fill the bracket out. The odds of having a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, so don’t stress too much.

Some things to know

A No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed in 128 attempts since 1985.

The No. 8 vs No. 9 match up a coin flip. Over 128 total games, the No. 8 seed has 64 wins and the No. 9 seed has 64 wins.

No. 8 and No. 9 seeds are 17-111 all-time against No. 1 seeds in the second round.

No. 12 seeds have 46 wins over No. 5 seeds since 1985. No. 11 seeds also have 46 wins over No. 6 seeds. There has been at least one No. 12 seed upsetting a No. 5 seed in 28 of the last 32 years.

In 19 of the last 20 NCAA Tournaments, a No. 2 seed has failed to make it past the second round.

At least one No. 13, No. 14 or No. 15 seed has won in the first round in 28 of the last 32 years.

Since 1985, two or more No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four just twice.

For the unconventional 

If analyzing RPI and strength of schedule isn’t for you, there are plenty of other numbers to consider.

Since 1985, eight teams with human mascots (Blue Devil, Rebels, Hoosiers) have won the National Championship.

In that same span, 23 schools with animal mascots have captured the title. One team (the Syracuse Orange) had neither a human nor animal.

The mascot with the most NCAA Tournament wins? The Wildcats. Between Kentucky, Arizona and Villanova, six different Wildcats teams have cut down the nets.

Avian-based mascots (Jayhawks, Cardinals) have won just four titles since 1985.

Scoring in the ESPN Bracket Challenge

“PTS” are the total amount of points that your team has accumulated since the start of the tournament. “PCT” represents the percentile your performance falls within, graded against all other entrants in the game. “RK” is your numerical rank in the entire field of entrants.

Each correct pick awards points to your entry. A correct selection in the second round counts as 10 points, and in the third round the point value is doubled.

Brackets can be edited until Thursday, March 16.

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