How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool

cover_screenshotYou want to win your March Madness pool. The money is nice, but the bragging rights are even better.

However, it seems so difficult to win your pool. You don’t have the time to research all sixty some teams.

I have a better way for you.

To win your pool, you must combines analytics and strategy. Analytics gives you an edge over others in predicting winners. Strategy lets you exploit the biases of others in picking the best bracket.

These methods, which originated in my book How to win your NCAA tournament pool, are for:

  • People who don’t think March Madness can be predicted. You’ll be surprised how often analytics can predict the winner of tourney games, even before it starts. See the Introduction Chapter.
  • People who think you should just pick the team with the highest win probability as champion. You need think contrarian. See Chapter 3.
  • People who don’t have 10 hours to research their bracket. A simple 3 step process helps you make the most important decision for your bracket.
  • People who love March Madness. This book recounts the excitement of past tourneys through an optimal bracket.

You need to fill out your bracket based on pool size. This is the only genuine way to maximize your odds of winning.

Over the years, I had tried all of the different tricks like finding the trendy 12 over 5 pick, going with Kenpom’s ratings or the lines set by Vegas. Once in a while, I’d get close to winning a pool, but I needed something to push me over the top, and your book was fantastic for that.

In 2015, I won two pools, one of them had 100 entries, and the other had 20 entries. In 2017, I won two pools and finished second in another.

— Ryan Peters, Omaha, Nebraska.

To use this combination of analytics and strategy to win your pool, click here.

From graduate school to predicting March Madness

Ed_Feng_headshotHi, my name is Ed Feng. As a college basketball junkie in grad school, I wrote code to use Ken Pomeroy’s numbers to fill out my bracket. After that, people stopped inviting me into their pools.

Years later, I developed a ranking algorithm for sports teams based on my PhD from Stanford in applied mathematics. This led to The Power Rank, my site devoted to better predictions through analytics.

March Madness has played a huge role in my sports analytics journey from the beginning. In 2012, SB Nation made a gorgeous video on my tourney analytics and data visualizations.

In addition, here’s an unsolicited email about my rankings and predictions.

You’ll be glad to know that I have been and continue to be in first place in my family bracket, and yesterday the message board was abuzz with talk of my first 8 picks being perfect. My police officer cousin threatened to subpoena my IP address to make sure I had picked before the games started. I explained my picks and posted a link to The Power Rank website, which prompted my uncle to cry foul about my research methods!

— Tom Kellogg, Madison, WI.

A study by found my 2015 tournament predictions to be the most accurate. My content has also appeared on Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, and Grantland.

The secrets behind winning your pool

My research reveals the following lessons on filling out your bracket.

  • Can tournament games be predicted at all? You might be surprised how often one particular team wins, and why this matters in small pools. See Chapter 1.
  • How to pick the right pool. You might as well light your entry fee on fire if you enter the wrong pool. See Chapter 2.
  • The contrarian approach to winning a medium sized pool that will make sense to no one but you. This is the key to avoiding the luck of others in your pool. See Chapter 3.
  • Should you avoid picking three point shooting teams as champion?. Live by three, die by the three. This advice has changed over the years. See Chapter 5.
  • Your true odds of winning a pool based on its size. My Monte Carlo simulations give you the best possible estimates.

Here’s the experience of a few members of The Power Rank.

In 2018, I won my pool with 58 brackets. I used the member numbers and analysis that Ed provides and contrasted them with the public information from ESPN. Love all the content he provides during March.

— Brian Z, New York City, NY, 2018.

I won a 100 person pool ($10 entry) which paid $600 for first. In another 34 person pool, I won 3rd with North Carolina which paid $90. In my last pool with $50 entry, I had Gonzaga as champion and took second, which paid $300.

— Garrett Tobel, member of The Power Rank, 2017.

There is no guarantee that you’ll win your pool. Even with the best strategy, luck can slap you in the face. Grandma, who doesn’t know the difference between John Calipari and Nick Saban, picks every sleeper team that makes the Sweet 16 and wins the pool.

However, analytics can greatly reduce the role of luck in your pool results. In about 12,000 words and 9 visuals, this book shows you the best strategy based on pool size. In addition, I provide an honest look at your chances of winning a pool.

How to win your pool

There are multiple ways to apply my March Madness research to help you win your pool.

Become a member of The Power Rank

Members of The Power Rank get access to all of my analytics and bracket advice, which includes:

  • A pdf copy of How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool.
  • My full bracket advice for the 2018 tournament. In essence, I apply the ideas in the book for you after Selection Sunday based on more accurate ensemble predictions not available to the public.
  • Ensemble predictions for the spread in every college basketball game the night before the games. This combines my team rankings with data from the markets and preseason expectations.
  • College football and NFL predictions. In 2018, my NFL predictions went 53.8% against the closing median spread on Don Best (120-103 with 10 pushes). This only includes games in which my prediction differs from the spread by more than a half point.

To become a member of The Power Rank for $84 per year and get instant access to the book, click on the orange “Add To Cart” button.
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You can also pay with PayPal, JCB and Diner’s Club. The membership renews every year.

Get my full bracket advice

With this service, you get:

  • My full bracket advice, which is based on my ensemble numbers that combine data from games, markets and preseason expectations. The win probabilities also account for Zion Williamson’s injury.  This includes a cheat sheet that makes it easy to fill out your bracket.
  • A data file that has the probability for each team to advance through each round.  You can upload this into a spreadsheet.

To get my bracket advice, click on “I want this!”

Paperback and ebook

How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool, the professionally edited book, is available from Amazon in both paperback and for Kindle.

  • To read paperback, click here.
  • To read the Kindle version, click here. The book is also part of Kindle Unlimited, so you can read the book for free if you have subscribed to this service.

Don’t have a Kindle? You can download the free Kindle reading app for your smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac, iPad.

Get a free sample of the book

Still unsure? You can read the Introduction chapter of the book by signing up for my email newsletter.

To sign up for this free service, enter your best email and click on “Sign up now!”