Best March Madness Bracket Contests
Pennsylvania schools including Villanova, Temple, La Salle, St Joe’s, Pitt and Penn State have all enjoyed great runs in the NCAA Tournament, so few know how mad March can be like PA basketball fans.
Even smaller PA programs like Bucknell, Drexel, Duquesne, Lafayette, Lehigh, Penn Robert Morris or Saint Francis always seem ready to be any year’s March Madness Cinderella.
Which PA schools are good March Madness picks this year? What are the best free bracket pools out there? Here’s a quick guide to finding the best free bracket challenges in PA and building the best NCAA brackets you can.
Best free March Madness bracket contests
PA online sportsbooks have opened up your options when it comes to betting on March Madness bracket contests. And the best part is, a lot of them are free to enter. Here’s a list of the top free bracket contests at major PA sportsbooks:
DraftKings $30,00 March Madness Survivor Pool
This year DraftKings Sportsbook has announced a March Madness Survivor Pool that is entirely free to enter and open to anyone in the US. How it works:
- Pick one team each day to win
- If your pick wins, you advance.
- You can only pick each team once per entry.
- If you can’t make any more picks at any point in the contest, your entry is eliminated.
If you’re unfamiliar with a March Madness Survivor Pool, it’s more commonly used for NFL pools but runs more or less the same for March Madness. Instead of picking winners for all the games, each day you just need to pick one winner from any game. If your pick wins, you move on to the next round.
The trick is each team can only be picked once until the end of the tournament. Survive and advance, lose and be eliminated. Last person(s) standing wins the ultimate prize.
Free $60K Yuengling March Mania Battle Contest
A straightforward, pick the winners across all 63 games of March Madness-style Bracket contest with points awarded for correct picks. Completely free to enter with a $50,000 total prize pool. Details:
- Max entries per player: 1
- Total prize pool: $60,000
- Total places paid: 7,755
- First place: $2,500
- 2nd-3rd: $1,000
Submit picks via DraftKings website or app before the tourney starts. To sign up and play in any March Madness contest you simply need to create an account with DraftKings and enter. To grab a Bonus Bet and get started, just hit the link below:
BetMGM $10M Perfect Bracket Challenge
Another great free-to-play challenge for PA sportsbook account holders. There are two tiers of winning in this one:
- If you somehow pick an entirely perfect bracket you’ll walk away with a full $10 Million
- Top points-getter overall earns $100,000
Obviously, most are playing for the latter but with a free $100k up for grabs it’s worth an entry. Scoring system is as follows:
- All games throughout the tournament count as one point
- First four games before opening round don’t count
Contest is open to all sportsbook account holders, new and existing. See full contest details at BetMGM sportsbook on the promotions tab.
Free Second-Chance Bracket Contests in PA
What’s a second chance bracket contest? It’s a March Madness bracket contest that gives you a second chance by starting with the Sweet 16.
It’s a great way to keep you interested in the NCAA Tournament after your first (or first dozen) brackets have been busted. DraftKings Sportsbook has two free second chance bracket contests:
- $10,000 Irish Spring Second Chance Bracket Contest
- $20,000 KFC 2nd Chance Survivor Pool
A standard second-chance bracket contest is simply about picking winners for the remaining 15 games in the NCAA Tournament, from the Sweet 16 through to the National Championship game. That’s obviously easier to do than picking 63 game-winners, and you get to use real-life tournament game data from the first two rounds to do it.
How to sign up and enter a March Madness bracket contest in PA
Getting in a March Madness bracket contest at any PA sportsbook app is a three-step process:
1. Sign up for an account
If you haven’t yet, you need to sign up for an account with the PA sportsbook app running the March Madness bracket contest you wish to enter. You can do this by clicking on any link to that sportsbook here on this page.
That’ll take you to a page where you can sign up or download and install the app right there. During the sign-up process, you may be asked to enter a promo or bonus code. You can also find these on this page. Entering the latest one will ensure you get the best possible bonus.
2. Find the free March Madness bracket contest
Most free March Madness bracket contests will be right up front on the sportsbook website or app home screen, making them easy to find. You can also drill down through the ‘Basketball’, ‘College Basketball,’ and ‘NCAA Basketball’ tabs until you find the free and paid-entry contests. If you can’t find it there, you can check in the ‘Promotions’ tab. Then, fill out your brackets and enter as many as you like.
3. Make a deposit for paid contests
If you also want to enter any paid entry March Madness bracket contests, you’ll need to deposit money in your account to enter with. Simply head over to the Cashier and choose the deposit method that’s most convenient for you. The list of available deposit methods will probably include everything from cash at affiliated PA casinos, to prepaid cards, online banking, PayNearMe, and even PayPal.
How to play March Madness bracket contests
March Madness bracket contests or “pools” are the traditional way most Americans bet on the NCAA Tournament. You fill out a 63-game bracket, pick a winner for every game throughout the entire NCAA Tournament in advance, then enter your bracket in either a free or paid-entry bracket contest.
While most March Madness bracket pools are usually played at the office or among friends, PA online sportsbooks now offer a legal and accessible alternative with both free and paid-entry March Madness bracket contests.
While some contests pay the best bracket only, most pay out the top 5-10% of the field with the lion’s share reserved for the best two or three brackets. A typical free or paid bracket contents will have a five-figure prize pool split among the top brackets; bigger pools have paid out six-figure scores to the winner alone.
Most March Madness bracket contests are run using a points system that awards points for every game you get right. Late-round winners are often worth more than early-round winners. A lot of bracket contest scoring systems award a single point for first-round winners, then double that for each round up to 32 points for the National Championship winner.
Entering a March Madness bracket contest does require you to pick winners for all 63 games. That’s a lot harder to do than pick winners in a select few games and bet on those games alone. But nothing is stopping you from doing both. You can play all the March Madness contests and still take a shot at a big score with a few shrewd and profitable bets throughout the tournament at the same time.
How do March Madness bracket contests pay out?
Free and paid-entry March Madness bracket contests vary in buy-in, field size, scoring, and payout structure. That said, most are scored using a points system assigning escalating values for every round.
Most also pay out the top 5% to 10% of brackets entered, with escalating prize values and the biggest for the best bracket. Although, some contests pay the best bracket or the top three only.
Either way, if you book a score in a March Madness bracket contest at a PA online sportsbook, the funds won will be automatically deposited in your account. Then, you can use those funds to bet on sports or withdraw them using the very same method you used to make a deposit previously.
That is, as long as you deposited using ACH/e-checks, prepaid card, PayPal, Neteller, or cash at a PA casino. If you went another route, most PA online sportsbooks will offer to send your money through one of these methods. Finally, if none work for you, they’ll send you a check in the mail.
3 Essential March Madness Bracket Tips
The process of making NCAA Tournament picks and filling out a March Madness bracket is often referred to as Bracketology. However, with so many variables in play, it’s more of an art than it is a science. New players can try these three basic bracket building tips:
1. Find giants primed for a fall
There’s only been one No. 1 seed in history to lose to a No. 16 seed in the first round. However, at least one No. 2, 3, or 4 seed has failed to make it out of the first round in 24 out of the last 27 years. Finding at least one top-seeded team that isn’t playing good enough to warrant the seeding praise can be a bracket building difference maker.
2. Put Cinderella in The Sweet 16
Every year there’s at least one lower-seeded team that wears the glass slipper and becomes the tournament’s Cinderella by making an improbable NCAA Tournament run. Cinderella has never really won the tournament, but she will go as far as the Sweet 16. Fact is, in only two of the past 27 years has the Sweet 16 been filled by teams that are seeded ninth or higher. That’s why it’s a good idea to identify one double-digit seed with a shot and put them through to the Sweet 16 in your bracket.
3. Have a No. 1 seed winning
A total of 19 of the past 26 National Champions have been No. 1 seeds, including Virginia in 2019. That means it’s probably a good idea to roll with a No. 1 seed to win it all in at least a few of your brackets.
3 Worst March Madness Bracket Mistakes
With so many variables in play, bracketology is a complicated art to get right. And even with a ton of knowledge your bracket picks can all go south pretty fast. Still, you can practice good bracket building habits by trying to avoid these three typical mistakes:
1. Picking too many No. 1’s
Picking all No. 1 seeds to make it to the Final Four is a popular thing to do for casual fans, but it’s a mistake. That’s because it’s actually only happened just once before. No. 1 seeds appear in the Final Four more than any others and win the championship game more than any others, but only one or two get there most years.
2. Putting too much stock in conference tournaments
Conference tournament winners get an automatic bid in the tournament and a lot of love in the seeding. However, putting too much stock in Conference Tournament winners can be a big mistake. Look at the regular-season conference champs instead. One bad night may have seen a team ready for a deep NCAA Tournament run loose in a conference tournament and influence the seeding unfairly.
3. Fearing the upset
Being afraid to pick several big upsets is a big mistake. There’s an average of six upsets pulled off by the No. 10 to No. 15 seeds every year. A No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 in the first round in 29 of the last 33 tournaments. Start there and make sure you have a few upsets in your bracket if you want to compete.
How do March Madness brackets work?
The teams that win one of the 32 conference tournaments held across the US are given automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament. After that, the NCAA hosts Selection Sunday (March 12, 2023) where the NCAA Selection Committee will pick another 36 other at-large bids.
The NCAA Selection Committee seeds the field giving eight lower seeds a chance to play their way into the NCAA Tournament’s First Round through the First Four games. That leaves 64 teams divided up into four 16-team seeded regional brackets to play First Round games on the tournament’s first Thursday and Friday. The winners go on to play Second Round games on the tournament’s first Saturday and Sunday.
Those winners move on to the Sweet 16 with games on the tournament’s second Thursday and Friday. Sweet 16 game winners move onto the Elite Eight with games on the tournament’s first Saturday and Sunday. Those winners move on to the Final Four with semifinal games held on the tournament’s final Saturday and the winners meeting in the National Championship game on the following Monday.
Filling out a bracket to enter into a March Madness bracket contest means picking a winner in all 63 of these games, from the First Round through to the National Championship game. Of course, the 64-team field is not set until the First Four games are completed, so that involves a little bit of guesswork or an 11th-hour scramble.
Once you build a bracket and enter it in a contest, your picks are set in stone. That means you still maintain a shot to win if you have picks that are still alive and your bracket is considered busted when you don’t.
March Madness single-game betting options
If picking winners for all 63 NCAA Tournament games and entering a bracket in a March Madness bracket contest sounds like too tall a task, or you simply want a little bit of action on a select few games, you can bet on every tournament game individually at PA online sportsbooks. That means PA online sportsbooks will have March Madness betting lines posted for every game.
Typical single-game March Madness lines you can bet on include moneylines, spreads, and totals. You can also combine two or more of these bets into one to make a better-paying parlay. Plus, you can bet NCAA basketball futures, picking the team you think will win the NCAA Tournament, and props, betting on whether or not teams and players can hit certain statistical milestones.
Access our full live feed of all NCAA tournament game odds and our breakdown of the best online sportsbooks to bet March Madness at right here: