Best March Madness Bracket Contests
When it comes to showcasing talent during March Madness, few schools have been as successful as Michigan and Michigan State. Both have brought their state elation with deep runs to the Final Four. They’ve also been responsible for their fair share of busted brackets with early departures.
Should you advance the Spartans or Wolverines to the Final Four in your bracket this year? Should you bet it all on bracket contests or futures bets? Our March Madness bracket guide will help you understand your best options for March Madness betting in Michigan. Jump right to the best bracket contests here.
Best free March Madness bracket contests in Michigan
There are a ton of March Madness contests you can enter. Many still don’t charge a fee. But which are the best? Here are our favorites in Michigan.
$30,000 DraftKings Survivor Pool
Not your stereotypical March Madness bracket challenge. In this one, you simply pick one team to win on each day of the tournament. If your team wins, you move on. If it loses lose, you’re done.
A new team must be picked each day. If you run out of unique teams to pick, you’re also eliminated. The last players left standing at the end of the last round share the massive prize pool.
DraftKings Free $60,000 March Mania Battle
Would you expect anything less from a company that has taken sports betting by storm? The entire country can take a shot at winning DraftKings Sportsbook’s free March Madness contest, and you can win some decent money if you are one of the top contestants. Pick the winners across all 63 games and grab your share of the $60k!
BetMGM $10M Perfect Bracket Challenge
This contest is entirely free to play for anyone who has or opens an account at BetMGM Sportsbook. Predict an entirely perfect bracket, and you’ll win $2 million.
But all is not lost if you don’t; there’s still a $100,000 guaranteed prize for the player who picks the most games correctly. The scoring system is as follows:
- All correct tournament picks are worth one point
- Player with the most correct picks wins the full $100k
- If there’s a tie, players split the prize pool
Check the full contest details on the promotions tab at BetMGM Sportsbook. Register for a BetMGM Sports account or login to your existing account Note that First Four games do not count for this contest.
$20,000 2nd Chance Bracket Contest
It doesn’t matter which one of the many March Madness upsets busted your bracket this year — DraftKings Sportsbook gives you a chance to get it right again!
The free-to-enter 2nd Chance contest generally starts with the Sweet 16 and runs through the national championship game. You’ll get 10 points for each Sweet 16 game you pick right, 20 for the Elite 8, 40 for the Final Four and 80 for the title tilt.
Compile the most points, and the $10K first-place prize is yours! As a bonus, DK also has a $20,000 2nd Chance Survivor Pool. Enter both before the Sweet 16 starts via the link below.
Yahoo Best Bracket Millionaire: Yes, Yahoo is still a thing. And Yahoo Sports is one of its main properties. Every year, the site offers a free-to-enter bracket contest, and the winner walks away with $1 million. You make your picks, and if you’re the best there is, you get an actual lump-sum check of $1 million.
There is no reason not to enter — it’s free! Just remember that there is only a single prize awarded.
ESPN Tournament Challenge: Obviously, ESPN remains among the biggest names when it comes to sports, so it really shouldn’t be shocking that the network has its own tournament contest. The rewards for the free challenge are much smaller than those above (valued at around $25,000). And none of it includes cash prizes. You might see a trip to Hawaii, gift cards or even ESPN+ subscriptions.
How do you get paid in March Madness bracket contests?
Although creating an NCAA Tournament bracket challenge is largely for the fun of it, there’s always something special about walking away with some money in your pocket. Plus, the bragging rights are nice.
So how do you get paid if you do well in a March Madness contest at a Michigan sportsbook?
The first thing to remember is that every sportsbook has its own set of rules, and you can always find them under the terms and conditions section of any contest you enter. In that area, you’ll find specific rules for the sportsbook you’re using.
Typically, brackets work on a points system. The first-round games are worth a certain amount of points — let’s say five points as an example for each correct selection — and the point values often go up with each round. So perhaps you would receive 10 points for every correct selection in the second round, 15 in the Sweet 16, 20 in the Elite Eight and 25 in the Final Four. The winning selection in the final is usually worth an elevated number of points, and there is usually a tie-breaker (typically the final score of the national title game) scenario baked in.
But, as we mentioned above, each sportsbook is going to have its own rules and scoring system, and you should always read the terms and conditions before participating.
When you do make some money, you’ll have the ability to withdraw your winnings from your online sportsbook account if you wish. To do so, you’ll have to select a withdrawal method, which ranges from direct deposit into a bank account, to PayPal, to a physical check in the mail. Different sportsbooks may have slightly different deposit and withdrawal methods, so make sure you are aware of those before participating in any free March Madness contests.
How to open a betting account for a bracket contest in Michigan
Depending on which online sportsbook or Michigan sports betting app you choose to use in the Great Lakes State, you’ll find varying sign-up procedures. Thankfully, the general process is the same across the board.
When you open up the app you’ve chosen to go with, you’ll see the option to register or sign up. Upon clicking that, you’ll be taken to a page that requires you to enter personal information:
- Physical address
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license number
You’ll have to agree to the terms and conditions. Once you’re through all of those steps, you’ll be able to make a deposit into your account. Then you can start wagering.
3 tips for filling out your March Madness bracket
When it comes to March Madness, everyone has their own strategy for picking winners. In your workplace pool, you might have a co-worker who picks based on which mascot would win in a fight. Some people make their picks by letting their dog choose.
We don’t recommend those particular approaches … but we do have three essential tips for your March Madness selections.
- Don’t go with all higher seeds (but don’t go crazy, either): Regions in a bracket that play exactly to their seeding are extremely rare. There are going to be upsets. Lots of folks like to focus on the No. 5 vs. No. 12 games. Although those first-round games are often where an upset occurs, don’t go crazy on choosing just underdogs. Such a strategy will come back to mess up your bracket. Instead, research those teams and identify which game or games you think are most likely to be upsets early on.
- Double-digit seeds can get to the Sweet 16: It’s not uncommon for that Cinderella team to make a trip to the Sweet 16 (and even deeper every now and again). If you have a good feeling about a lower-seeded team, then you should feel free to take that chance. Double-digit seeds often make it through the first two rounds.
- National champions are rarely lower seeds: Upsets are great and all, but it’s very rare that a team with even a middling seed will be the one that cuts down the nets at the end of the national championship game. Historically speaking, the NCAA Tournament champ is usually a team that has done well throughout the regular season and possesses a deep bench and an experienced coaching staff. It’s nice to cheer for the lower-seeded teams, but keep in mind they don’t usually make it into the history books.
3 mistakes to avoid when picking March Madness brackets
Building a great bracket takes more than just a solid strategy and luck — you also have to avoid the pitfalls, too.
Here are our three top areas of March Madness mistakes you don’t want to make.
- Don’t forget to look deeper at those win/loss records: History is available for everyone to learn from, and sports are no different. Just because a team’s win/loss record looks impressive at first glance doesn’t mean that’s the truth. Check and see how it has fared against other quality teams and not just the lower-level squads in its conference. Did it end the season on a losing streak? Does a team struggle with nonconference opponents?
- Those giant upsets are extremely rare: Remember when University of Maryland–Baltimore County defeated Virginia, the first time a No. 16 team upset a No. 1 seed? Pretty special, right? It’s so special, in fact, that you really shouldn’t even consider choosing the No. 16 over the No. 1 in your bracket. There’s a reason a No. 1 seed has lost in the first round just once. Giant upsets are extremely rare, so avoid building your bracket with them as the primary theme. Find a few games you think could end up with the underdog prevailing, but don’t make big upsets the focal point of your bracket.
- Don’t pick based on your favorite teams, either: Sure, you absolutely love your college team and you cheer, cheer, cheer for them each and every season. And suppose your team makes it to the NCAA Tournament … amazing! But use your head first, and not your heart. If your team doesn’t have the talent to win a big game, just admit it and make your picks accordingly.
What if your March Madness bracket is a loser?
That’s the way the NCAA Tournament goes sometimes, and you just have to accept that fate. Of course, you might be able to enter a contest with a second-chance option.
Some sportsbooks and other March Madness contest organizers let you put together another bracket, typically starting with the Sweet 16 round and choosing which teams will advance. Of course, the prize pool will not be as robust as that of your original bracket, but it’s nice to have an option to help keep you in the running.
Brackets get busted. Top teams lose. A second-chance bracket lets you stay in the game and, in some cases, redeem yourself.
Companies such as ESPN, CBS Sports, and FOX Sports all usually have second-chance brackets as the tournament progresses in late March.
How do March Madness brackets work?
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, there is more than one way a team can earn a berth to the big dance. The first is to win one’s respective conference tournament. There are 32 conferences that each crown a champion at the end of a postseason tournament. That champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The other 36 teams are selected by a committee, which reveals its choices on Selection Sunday prior to the start of the March Madness tournament. Those at-large bids are determined based on overall performances and strong showings against other tournament-bound teams.
To get from the 68 teams chosen to the neat-and-tidy field of 64 for the first round, eight teams compete in four play-in games (called the First Four), with the winners advancing. The lowest four seeded conference champions play in two games as No. 16 seeds, and the last four at-large berths play against each other as teams in the double-digit seed range.
All of those teams are seeded No. 1 through No. 16 in each region (there are four regions, often based on geographical locations of the schools), and they are paired to play against one another. Since it’s a single-elimination tournament, a team that loses goes home. A team that wins advances to the next round against a new opponent.
As teams are eliminated, the best climb through the ranks to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and, finally, the national championship game.
2022 March Madness schedule
It won’t be until March when we know which teams will be playing in the NCAA Tournament, so we can’t give you a full schedule at this point. What we can do is give you the breakdown of when milestone events will take place during the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
- Selection Sunday: March 13
- First Four: March 15-16
- First Round: March 17-18
- Second Round: March 19-20
- Sweet 16: March 24-25
- Elite Eight: March 26-27
- Final Four: April 2
- National Championship: April 4
March Madness brackets vs. single-game betting
When it comes to online sportsbooks in Michigan, you’ll be able to find both free and paid March Madness contests to join, in addition to individual game lines and props on each game.
Which is the better proposition for making some March Madness money? Here are pros and cons of betting on brackets in comparison to betting on single games during the tournament.
Pros of bracket contests
- The variety of mathematical outcomes is staggering, which means that longshots certainly end up winners and novices can find their way to the top of their pools.
- As such, you don’t have to know a ton about college basketball to participate, especially in the free or low-cost bracket contests.
- Brackets are typically inexpensive ways to enter March Madness betting, and because of that fact, you can usually have more than one bracket in each contest if you choose.
- They’re fun to fill out. The upsets. The Cinderellas. The top-ranked teams. That time No. 1 Virginia fell to a No. 16 seed to make history. It’s all a part of the fun.
Cons of bracket contests
- If you flub your Final Four picks and they lose early, you could really be in a bad spot, because you’ll lose all of those points each round.
- It’s difficult focusing on all of these matchups and researching them the correct way. It’s also even more difficult to see past the first round, because you don’t know what the actual matchups will be, who might be injured or who might go on a hot streak. (Remember those Loyola-Chicago or Butler runs?)
- It’s time-consuming, unless you’re just going to guess — which we don’t recommend in any wagering environment.
Pros of single-game March Madness betting
- It’s much easier to research a single game and gather as much information as you need before you place your college basketball bets.
- You win some, you lose some. (There’s a reason some cliches feel real.) But there’s always the next game if you want to keep playing.
- It gives you a much better excuse to be watching the games so you can keep track of your wager and any prop bets or live betting you may be doing.
Cons of single-game March Madness betting
- You miss out on the enthusiasm that March Madness brackets typically bring out in bettors and pool participants.
- The risk is lower, but so is the reward.
- You’ll be less interested in the tournament overall, which is one of the more exciting sports tournaments in the world.
March Madness single-game betting
When it comes to placing bets on single games during the NCAA Division I Men’s College Basketball Tournament, you have plenty of options, especially when using legal and regulated sportsbooks in Michigan.
The main bet types you’ll be considering are the moneyline, point spreads and totals (also known as over/under bets).
For a moneyline bet, you have to choose between the two teams which you think will win the game. Simple as that. It’s the easiest kind of bet to make with the least amount of extra consideration involved. It doesn’t matter if a win is by one point or 100 — all that matters is the team you pick wins the game.
Teams with negative odds are the favorites, while teams with positive odds are the underdogs. For example …
- Michigan State -110
- Georgetown +160
… If you bet on the Michigan State Spartans to win this game, you’d have to place a $110 bet to win $100 if the Spartans are victorious. If you choose Georgetown, every $100 you bet stands to win you $160 in profit if the Hoyas win.
For point spreads, oddsmakers will give you a game and the number of points a team is expected to win or lose by. Your challenge is to choose the correct outcome, taking that spread into consideration.
- Oakland University +13.5 (-110)
- Marquette University -13.5 (-110)
The sportsbook has determined that Marquette is a 13.5-point favorite in this game. With that being the case, Marquette would need to win the game by 14 points or more for your bet to be successful. A wager on Oakland, meanwhile, means that team would need to either win the game outright or just lose by 13 points or fewer in order for you to collect.
The third of the main bet types is the totals bet, also known as an over/under bet. Oddsmakers will determine how many points they think the two teams in a single game will combine to score, and your decision to make is if you think the combined total will be over or under what the oddsmakers have listed. It doesn’t matter who wins, just that the combined point total is over or under the projection.
Here’s an example of a game between Michigan and Duke.
- Over 135.5 (-110)
- Under 135.5 (-110)
The sportsbook has put the total score at 135.5 points (yes, half-points are impossible, but this total ensures the game won’t land exactly on a number and cause a push).
If you think Duke and Michigan can combine for 136 points or more, then you’d bet on the over. If you think the defenses will prevent the game from getting more than 135 combined points, then you’d bet the under.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File
March Madness Bracket FAQ
Brackets cannot be completed until after Selection Sunday announcements are made — which are next slated for March 13, 2022 — but you can find brackets to be filled out pretty much immediately afterward.
It all depends on which contest you have entered, but the way it typically works is each round’s games are worth a certain number of points. Each correct choice in that round gives you that many points. Those points are added up, and a winner is determined by the total points accumulated. In the case of a tie, the usual tie-breaker is the final score of the national championship game. But keep in mind that each contest has its own rules, and you should familiarize yourself with them prior to participating.
That limit depends on which sportsbook or website contests you are entering. Some will cap your number of entries, and some will allow you to enter as many times as you want. You can also enter in multiple contests at multiple locations if you wish. The real question is, how many brackets do you want to enter?
There are a lot of ways for March Madness brackets to go off the rails, but once you see the math on the number of possible combinations for a single bracket, you’ll probably understand why. This math is based on if every team had an exact 50% chance to win any game. Since there are 63 games in the recognized bracket (after the First Four round), each with two potential outcomes, that would mean 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible combinations.
If you picked up a bracket and just randomly filled it out, you’d have a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of having a perfect bracket. Since few bettors actually just choose winning teams at random, the odds, according to DePaul University math professor Jeff Bergen, are closer to one in 128 billion.
The American Gaming Association estimates there are more than 70 million NCAA Tournament brackets filled out each March.