March Madness Bracket Contests

The state of Indiana knows a lot about March Madness brackets. From the dominant, Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores in the 1970s to deep runs from IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, and Butler, Indianans have seen their bracket picks go far more than most.

Now that legal online sports betting is here, March Madness betting in Indiana has taken off as well.

How far should you pencil in IN teams in your March Madness bracket contest? What are the best bracket contests out there this year? Below find the best spots to get your March Madness bracket picks in at IN online sportsbooks. Jump to the best contests here.

Best sportsbooks with March Madness bracket betting

Best Free March Madness Contests

Free March Madness bracket contests are an easy and accessible way to get in on March Madness betting without risking anything. Typically, sportsbooks and sports media entities sponsor free March Madness contests every year with varying prize pools.

As there is no buy-in from the contestants, these prize pools can vary in generosity but typically range from $10,000 and up. DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, two of the largest sportsbook and daily fantasy sports providers, both typically offer a $250,000-$1 Million prize pool event and a couple of smaller prize pool contests as well.

Major media properties like ESPN or Yahoo! will sometimes put up a $1 million contest, but those draw millions of entrants as well and are difficult to get a sniff of any prize money. The top-scoring brackets will split the set prize pool based on their position in the final standings.

While a few March Madness bracket contests are still to be announced, here are the IN sportsbooks that will have free and paid bracket contests open to Indiana residents this year:

$30,000 DraftKings Survivor Pool

Much like an NFL Survivor pool, in this bracket pool all you need to do is pick one team to win each day. If your team wins its game, you move on to the next round. If your team loses, you’re out of the pool.

draftkings free bracket challengeIn each new round, though, you have to pick a new team and can’t repeat. So picking Illinois as your first-round winner, for example, isn’t the smartest move. If you run out of new teams to pick for an ensuing round (ie you’ve already picked all of the remaining teams before), you’re out then too.

$60,000 Yuengling March Madness Bracket Battle

If you’ve ever played a bracket challenge before you’ll know how to play this one. It’s a traditional bracket contest where you pick all 63 games in advance and let the chips fall where they may. The free-to enter Yuengling contest will pay out an additional $60,000.

BetMGM $10 Million Perfect Bracket Challenge

mgm march madness challengeBetMGM has also rolled out a big free March Madness bracket contest of its own for 2021. It’s a $10 Million Perfect Bracket Challenge and this is how it works:

  • Pick an entirely perfect bracket and win $10 million straight up
  • $100,000 guaranteed prize for player who picks the most games correctly

Scoring system is as simple as it gets:

  • All tourney games are worth one point
  • First Four games don’t count towards your final total

Check full contest details at BetMGM sportsbook and sign up via the link below to enter free!

DraftKings $20,000 State Farm 2nd Chance Bracket

Was it Oral Roberts? Abilene Christian? North Texas? Loyola-Chicago?

Doesn’t matter who it was, really; we all pretty much saw our bracket sunk post-haste in typical March Madness fashion. As luck would have it, though, there’s another $20,o00 available for a free second chance bracket contest starting at the Sweet 16. Here’s how it works:

  • Pick all 15 games from Sweet 16 down to the championship
  • Round of 16 games worth 10 pts each
  • Elite 8 worth 20 pts
  • Final Four worth 40 pts
  • Championship worth 80 points

Earn the most points and collect the whole $20k!

DraftKings $20,000 KFC 2nd Chance Survivor Pool

Likewise, if you busted from the DK Survivor Pool you can jump back in for another go with the free 2nd Chance survivor pool. Same terms & conditions; create an account via the link below to play either of the DraftKings Bracket Challenges:

Best paid March Madness brackets

In terms of contest structure and scoring, there’s usually no difference between a paid bracket contest and a free bracket contest. However, a paid bracket contest requires the contestant to pay a fee to enter the contest.

In exchange, the prize pool is usually larger. The larger the contest, the more money you can win if your bracket finishes amongst the leaders. These sportsbooks can likely be expected to offer paid bracket contests in 2021:

March Madness brackets explained

march madness bracket contestsOne of the main reasons March Madness is so popular is that everyone can get involved. Co-workers, friends, and families all like to fill out brackets before the start of the tournament. Most entrants don’t follow, or maybe even know a thing about, college basketball let alone college basketball betting.

Filling out a bracket requires you to predict the whole tournament before a single game is played. You pick the winner of every game, and then in each subsequent round, you pick the winner of the matchups you have created.

This often leads, as we all know, to having a team you picked to go far in your bracket get eliminated on the first day of the tournament. If you picked Indiana to win the whole tournament, but they lose in the Round of 32, you know there’s no way you’ll pick up any of those potential points.

You can join free contests or paid contests. In a free contest, the prize pool is static and doesn’t change no matter how many players are in the contest. Winners will split the prize pool based on what it was set at before the tournament. In a paid contest, you must pay to enter the contest. In exchange, every entry makes the prize pool larger.

Pros and cons of bracketing vs. single game betting

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to filling out a bracket as opposed to just betting every game individually.


  • It’s cheaper. With a bracket, you can either join a free contest or join a paid contest that requires you to pay just once. If you bet every game individually, you’ll likely end up risking more money over time as opposed to just paying once.
  • It gives you more positive outcomes. You don’t need every game to go your way if you make a bracket, you just need enough things to go right while rooting for others to fail. Also, spreads don’t matter in brackets. If you bet the favorite to cover a four-point spread and they win by two points, you’re disappointed. However, if you picked them in your bracket, you’re happy either way!
  • It can make you feel like a genius. We all want to claim we can predict the future accurately, and this gives you a chance to prove that you can.


  • You have to pick every game. There are a lot of crazy results in the tournament; that’s why they call it “March Madness.” You are going to be wrong a bunch in your bracket. You also have to pick every game, even those between teams you are unfamiliar with. You might do a better job of picking your spots if you were betting games individually.
  • Your bracket can get busted. Usually, by the end of the first weekend, most brackets are busted pretty badly. If you bet on each game individually, you always have something to look forward to. If your predicted champion loses in the first round, there’s no hope with your bracket.

Second chance bracket contests

A basketball shotBrackets get busted. By the end of the first weekend of the tournament, you’ll probably have lost some Elite Eight teams, and likely a Final Four team as well.

Maybe you’ve gotten unlucky and lost your champion. With a second chance bracket, your tournament rooting interests can be reinvigorated.

DraftKings, for example, ran a very popular $16,000 second chance bracket contest in 2019 that started entirely with the Sweet 16 games. Contestants filled out an entirely new bracket and picked the winners from that point forward.

How are bracket contests scored?

Most NCAA March Madness bracket contests use standard scoring. Some brackets give bonus points for correctly picking upsets, but for the most part that is done in more personal and smaller pools.

Sportsbooks will use this scoring system for most of their contests: Each correct team you pick to win in the below rounds will give you the stated amount of points.

  • Round of 64: 1 Point
  • Round of 32: 2 Points
  • Sweet 16: 4 Points
  • Elite 8: 8 points
  • Final Four: 16 Points
  • Championship: 32 points

You can afford to get a few games wrong in the early rounds with this scoring system. However, if you start losing teams you picked to go deep in the tournament, you might be in trouble.

How to sign up and register an account  

FanDuel Sportsbook app IN Betting on sports in Indiana is easy now that legal online sportsbooks are here, and therefore it’s simple to get into a March Madness contest; free or paid. Here are some simple steps:

  1. Check out the promotions and sign-up bonuses on this page. Registering with a promotion allows you to get off on the right foot.
  2. Once you’ve selected a sign-up offer, go to the sportsbook(s) you’ve selected and register your account. Fill out any necessary information such as your email, date of birth, and password. If necessary, verify your identity in this step.
  3. Download the app for the sportsbook you’ve chosen. With an app, you can bet from anywhere in the state of Indiana. Whether you’re running errands or on the couch, the sportsbook is at the tip of your fingers.
  4. Fund your account if you are playing a paid contest. Use any of the available options to add money to your sportsbook account.
  5. Find the contests tab in the app and pick the contest you’d like to join! Now fill out your bracket and enter!

March Madness bracket contest odds

Filling out a winning bracket is hard, so it should be no surprise to know that many fail terribly. With the high failure rate, bracket contests and pools payout well for the winner.

A good mindset to have with March Madness bracket competitions is that you shouldn’t expect to win. The odds are low that you’d be able to master the bracket better than everyone in your contest. However, here are some tips to give yourself better odds.

  1. Free brackets are not bad. They might not payout as well as the paid brackets, but you also aren’t losing anything by joining. Even if you are doing paid brackets, make sure you supplement with some free contests.
  2. Try to join smaller pools if possible. It’s simple math. If you join a smaller pool, you have to beat fewer people. It’s easier to have the best bracket out of 50 people than it is to have the best bracket out of 500 people. Payouts might not be as high, but you have a better chance of winning.
  3. If possible, submit multiple entries. Once again, it’s simple math. If you submit five brackets, there’s a better chance of you having a successful entry than if you submitted just one entry. Make sure to diversify enough between your brackets so that there’s value in submitting more than one. If you submit the same bracket twice, you’re not improving your chances.

When joining a contest, join with the mindset of having fun and enjoying the ride of ups and downs that is March Madness. Winning is an unexpected bonus.

3 essential March Madness bracket tips  

  1. Pick some upsets. Lower seeds upset higher seeds every year. There’s always a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. If you just advance the lower seeded teams in every matchup, not only are you being boring, but you’ll likely be wrong. Live a little.
  2. With that being said, don’t overdo it. Only once has a 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed. Advancing a No. 8 or No. 9 seed to the Sweet 16 might sound appealing, but picking the winner of that 8/9 game is already hard enough. No. 1 seeds win in the second round 85% of the time. Pick a low seed to win it all. Every champion since 2002 except UConn in 2014 has been a top-three seed.
  3. Make sure to factor in everything. Current form, injuries, analytical profiles, the tempo of play, coaching, etc. Every edge matters.

3 worst March Madness bracket mistakes  

  1. Cinderella stories are fun, but they usually end. No team seeded 12 or higher has ever reached the Final Four. No team seeded 9 or higher has ever reached the Championship game. You can predict some upsets, but don’t get carried away and know when to blow out the candles on Cinderella.
  2. Basketball has changed since the development of the three-point shot and that carries over to March. No team that had a three-point shooting percentage lower than 32.9% has ever won the Championship. Make sure your team can hit the long-range shot before you pick them to win it all.
  3. Don’t give up on the No. 1 seeds too early. There has never been an Elite 8 without a one seed. There have never been more than two number one seeds eliminated in the first weekend of the tournament. They are good. They are the one seed for a reason.

How are March Madness brackets set?

March Madness Selection ShowSixty-eight teams were originally selected for the tournament. 37 teams receive an “at-large” bid while 31 teams automatically qualify due to conference tournaments.

At-large bids are usually the most controversial, as the committee ranks teams based on a myriad of factors such as record, quality of competition, bad losses, good wins, analytics, injuries, current form, and more. Those teams that receive the most votes are given an at-large bid.

When the field is set, seeding is determined by a similar process that involves the committee grouping and ranking teams against each other. The bracket is then filled out based on the seeding of teams as determined by the committee.

There are four play-in games every year. The four worst “at-large” teams will play to determine the final two 11 seeds. Also, the four worst teams who receive automatic bids will play each other with only two securing bids to the round of 64 as 16 seeds.

2021 March Madness schedule/locations

Due to the pandemic, the whole tournament will take place in Indiana this year. The locations include Mackey Arena, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium. The Elite Eight and Final Four will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The schedule for the tournament is as follows:

  • Selection Sunday: March 17
  • First Four Play-In Games: March 19-20
  • First Round: March 21-22
  • Second Round: March 23-24
  • Sweet Sixteen: March 28-29
  • Elite Eight: March 30-31
  • Final Four: April 6
  • Championship: April 8

March Madness single game betting

Just because the focus of March Madness is on brackets does not mean you can’t bet the games like normal basketball games. You can bet each game individually as you would on any random game during the season.

You can bet on teams against the spread. You can simply pick the winner on the moneyline. Additionally, you can bet on the game going over or under the total. You can find out more about these bets on our main March Madness betting page.

March Madness brackets FAQ

Brackets are released after Selection Sunday once the field of teams and the seeds are known.

Each contest has specific rules as to how many times you can enter. Some brackets limit you to one entry while others allow you to enter as many times as you can afford. Check the contest rules for the specific contest you would like to enter.

You might be thinking about submitting multiple brackets with every single combination possible. Good luck. There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 different possible combinations of a March Madness bracket. That’s over 9.2 quintillions.

If you’re flipping a coin for each matchup, you have a one-in-9.2 quintillion chance of a perfect bracket. It’s estimated the odds for someone with above-average basketball knowledge is about one-in-120 billion.

There are 63 games in the tournament, and the longest ever streak of correct games to begin a tournament is 49 games. It was set in 2019 by Gregg Nigl.

It’s estimated by the American Gaming Association that 40 million unique Americans fill out a total of 70 million brackets.