How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool

You 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 do the hours of research required to study all 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.

Here’s the experience of a few people who have used my approach.

I used Ed’s methods and won a pool with 102 entrants. As a woman, it was particularly gratifying to win as the pool consisted of mostly men who consider themselves knowledgable. Thanks, The Power Rank!

— L.S. Stindt, Ann Arbor, MI, 2019.

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, NE.

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

From graduate school to predicting March Madness

Hi, 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 Ph.D. 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 secret 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.
  • The little secret about which teams to not pick as champion. It has to do with college basketball’s ultimate weapon. 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, 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 10,000 words and 7 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 2019 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 day before they happen.

From February 1st to March 5th, the member college basketball predictions have predicted the game winner straight up in 70.4% of games (1139-480). The closing spread as tracked by KO Stats has predicted the game winner straight up in 70.4% of games (1140-479).

In addition, over the same period, the root mean squared (rms) error of the member predictions to game results has been 10.48 points. The rms error based on the closing spread in the markets has been 10.44 points, less than 0.5% better.

Members also get access to all of my NFL and college football predictions and analytics. From the 2017 to 2019 seasons, the NFL predictions went 52.0% against the closing media Don Best spread (345-319 with 29 pushes) in games in which the prediction differed from the market by more than a half point.

The methods for the football predictions get updated each off-season.

To become a member of The Power Rank for $89 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.

Paperback and ebook

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

The paperback version of the book was updated in February of 2020 with a new design and crisp images.

  • To read paperback for $9.99, click here.
  • To read the Kindle version for $2.99, click here.

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