It’s March and that means March Madness will be upon us shortly. Having spent a portion of my childhood in Indiana, basketball is in my blood. Basketball is huge in our household. Our family especially loves March Madness and the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.
One of our family’s favorite activities is our March Madness Basketball Bracket Challenge. It has been going strong for almost a decade. Our bracket challenge has grown and evolved over the years, but always provides excitement (and sometimes temper tantrums) for everyone involved.
Want to set up a March Madness bracket challenge for your family? Check out how ours works and then figure out what works for your family.
NCAA March Madness 2023
The NCAA Men’s March Madness tournament features 68 college basketball teams that compete in a one-and-done tournament to see who is crowned the National Champion. The tournament starts with games at various locations around the country and is broken into four regions, with host cities chosen for regional rounds:
West Region: Las Vegas, NV
East Region: New York City, NY
Midwest Regional: Kansas City, MO
South Regional: Louisville, KY
When does March Madness Start?
Here is the schedule for the 2023 NCAA March Madness Tournament:
- First Four: March 14-15
- First round: March 16-17
- Second round: March 18-19
- Sweet 16: March 23-24
- Elite Eight: March 25-26
- Final Four: April 1
- NCAA Championship Game: April 3
You can watch March Madness live in several ways. March Madness games are broadcast on TV through several networks including CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV.
When is the Final Four?
The Final Four and Championship game will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
When is March Madness Selection Sunday?
Selection Sunday is the day when the NCAA announces the march madness teams participating in the annual college basketball tournament and their seedings. In 2023, Selection Sunday takes place on Sunday, March 12th (6 p.m. ET on CBS).
Want to relive last year’s tournament? Check out One Shining Moment for highlights of the 2022 NCAA March Madness Men’s basketball tournament:
2023 Women’s NCAA March Madness Tournament
If your family likes following the women’s NCAA March Madness tournament, you can create a similar family bracket challenge for that tournament. Selection Sunday for the women’s NCAA tournament is on Sunday, March 12th (at 8 p.m. on ESPN). Below are the dates of the Women’s NCAA basketball tournament:
- 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: March 31
- Championship Game: April 2
The Women’s NCAA basketball tournament features two regional locations in 2023:
- Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina
- Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington
The Women’s Final Four and Championship game take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
March Madness Bracket Challenge Rules For Families
Our March Madness bracket challenge rules are one of the primary components that have changed over the years. It’s still a work in progress. We started with progressively weighted rounds that double in point value for each round, which is the most common setup for online brackets. So correct picks in the first round are worth 1 point, 2 points in the second round, and continue to double until you get to the final game. You also need to pick the score of the championship game to use as a tiebreaker.
Another way of setting your bracket up is to put more emphasis on the total number of games picked correctly as opposed to the value increasing each round. This works better with younger kids as I’ve found they tend to lose interest if they aren’t at least in the running towards the end of the tournament.
When we first started out, we’d just pick one round at a time to allow everyone to pick more games after the winners of the previous round were decided. This worked great but is time-consuming to keep up with winners and losers and get everyone to fill out the next round’s games in a timely manner. Winners play twice a weekend so there are time restrictions with setting your bracket up this way. Again, this is a better setup for families with younger kids. They don’t seem to take losing very well. I wonder where they get that?!
Tracking your March Madness Family Brackets
At the beginning of our family bracket challenge, I printed out brackets for every family member. With the format of picking one round at a time, this required reprinting brackets after a round ends so the proper teams are filled in. Not fun. Now, we just use an online bracket and set everyone up in a group pool. There are several sports websites with online brackets you can manage for groups, like:
- Capital One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge
- ESPN Tournament Challenge
- CBS Sports March Madness Bracket Games
- Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’em
- Poolhost College Bracket Challenge
- Run Your Pool Basketball Brackets
The Women’s NCAA March Madness tournament also offers online bracket contests:
March Madness Bracket Challenge Prizes
We created our March Madness bracket challenge as something fun to do as a family. Our prizes reflected that in the beginning. Bracket winners typically get to choose some portion of a local family adventure. In the past, we’ve awarded prizes this way:
- 1st place chooses a local activity for our family to do together (examples include bowling, mini-golf, going to the movies, trampoline park, zoo, museum, etc.)
- 2nd place chooses a local restaurant that we will visit as a family.
- 3rd place chooses a local spot for dessert to wrap up our family adventure.
When our kids were younger, we had to find ways for everyone to win so we wouldn’t end up with sore losers ruining our fun. One year, we did two separate family adventure days, which provided choices for all six of us. That was expensive!
Now that they’re teenagers, I love beating them! And they love doing the same. We were probably being too nice to our kids when they were younger. We will never go back to six winners. No more participation trophies!
Now that our kids are older, gift cards are cash are more coveted as prizes.
The Real Reward
We created the NCAA bracket challenge shortly after the adoption of our daughters as one way to bond. Not only did the bracket challenge end with family time together exploring new places locally, but we also spent time together watching games and highlights, discussing our picks, trash-talking each other, and sharing what we would choose if we win.
Our March Madness family bracket challenge is about more than just basketball and, as much as I love basketball, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you participate in the March Madness brackets? If so, what is your strategy for picking teams? Let us know in the comments below.
Kevin Payne is the budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. He’s also the host of the Family Money Adventure Show podcast, where he helps families learn to manage their money better so they can afford to do the things they love.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to USA Today, Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Fox Business, Credible, and CreditCards.com.