How to score March Madness brackets

Making the right picks is hard. Scoring your bracket is easy.

General view of March Madness logo in the first half between the
General view of March Madness logo in the first half between the / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness is all about the buzzer beaters, the Cinderella runs and, of course, the brackets.

While the athletes are the only ones who get to play in March Madness, they're not the only ones who can participate in the tournament. Anyone and everyone can fill out a bracket to see if they can emerge as the most successful picker of results.

A lot of people use online brackets that score automatically, but not everyone. Some do it the old fashion way with a pen and paper. Once your picks are made, how do you score by hand?

How to score your March Madness bracket

Here is the most common scoring system for brackets...

March Madness Round

Points for correct pick

First Round


Second Round


Sweet 16


Elite 8


Final Four




Go through your bracket starting with the First Round (aka Round of 64) matchups and award one point for each correct guess. Then move to the Second Round (aka Round of 32) and work through each matchup awarding two points for picking the correct winner. Do the same for each round. Correct guesses in the Sweet 16 get four points each while picks in the Elite 8, fittingly, get 8 points each. For the Final Four it's 16 points each and finally, picking the correct champion nets you 32 points.

You can see that correct picks further into the tournament are awarded with more points, because it's so much harder to predict which teams will even be playing.

It works out that the maximum number of points anyone can gain from any round is 32.

A perfect score (which has never been verified in the history of the tournament) would be 128 points.

Whoever has the most points in your bracket challenge wins!

In many pools, a tiebreaker may come in the form of a score prediction for the championship game. If two entrants have the same score, the score prediction can separate them.

Alternative March Madness bracket scoring

Not interested in doing things the way most people do them?

Some pools score by simply giving one point for each correct winner pick. So getting First Round game right is weighted equally to getting the champion right.

Other scoring systems just weight the rounds differently. Here's some examples:

  • 1-2-3-4-6-10
  • 2-3-5-8-13-21
  • 2-3-5-7-10-50

Nothing is stopping you from scoring however you want. You can give extra points for upset picks (any time the higher seed was correctly picked as a winner). Some pools go as far as doubling points for upsets.

Other scoring systems rely on seeding entirely. Every correct pick of a No. 1 seed gives you one point. Picking a No. 12 seed winning correctly gives you 12 points. And so on.

Have fun with it!