Frequently Asked Questions

Okay, so technically nobody's actually asked me any questions. But here are answers to potential questions I could think of:
  1. What is this?
  2. What makes this different from any other online bracket challenge?
  3. Does it cost anything to enter?
  4. Are there prizes or money involved?
  5. How do I make my picks?
  6. When do I have to make my picks?
  7. How are the brackets scored?
  8. How will the tiebreakers work?
  9. How can I get updates on the status of the challenge?
  10. Why do you need my email address?
  11. What if I need to change my email address, time zone, or password?
  12. What if I need to change my name?
  13. Can you recover my password if I forgot it?
  14. Why does something look different on this site than it did a little while ago?
  15. Why does something on this site look weird?
  16. I found a bug!
Got a question that isn't answered here? Send me a message. Just make sure I know it's about the Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge.
What is this?

The Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge is a bracket challenge for the 2017 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men's Basketball Championship, a 67-game nationwide college basketball tournament which is held over three weeks in March and early April and is colloquially referred to as "March Madness."

The challenge is to correctly pick the winners of as many of the 67 games in the tournament as possible while the teams advance through the tournament "bracket," the schedule of games. You earn points for every game you correctly predict; you earn none for those you don't.

Whoever earns the most points wins bragging rights until next year!

What makes this different from any other online bracket challenge?

Unlike most bracket challenges, wherein you fill out your picks for all of the games at the beginning of the tournament and can't change them thereafter, the Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge allows you to edit your picks for games later in the tournament if things don't work out quite like you'd planned.

Perhaps the 5-seed you'd picked to go to the Elite Eight was upset by a 12-seed in their first game. Maybe a star player in a competitive Sweet Sixteen matchup got injured in an earlier round. In a traditional bracket challenge, you'd have to stick by your original picks regardless, even if, say, none of your Final Four teams are even playing in the Final Four! The result tends to be a lot of disappointed people with no stake in the action by the end of the tournament.

The Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge allows you to edit your bracket mid-tournament... but not without a cost. Obviously, you should be rewarded for picking games correctly from the outset, and big points are available if you do. But when the tournament throws you for a loop, this bracket challenge lets you reevaluate your bracket and salvage some points on a sliding scale which decreases with time, softening the often harsh "all-or-nothing" effect of traditional pools. (See "How are the brackets scored?" in this FAQ for the specifics on point values and scoring.)

It's not meant to be "better" or more "exciting" than a traditional pool; just something new which plays to slightly different predictive strengths and adds new elements to the "game" of bracket-picking.

Does it cost anything to enter?

No; entry into this bracket challenge is completely free. Simply sign up, make some picks, and click "Submit Bracket"!

Are there prizes or money involved?

No; this bracket challenge is just for fun. The only prize for winning is bragging rights until next year. Besides, involving prizes or money in bracket pools such as this one is against NCAA policy and is even illegal in many jurisdictions. It's best to just not go there, so I didn't.

How do I make my picks?

For Rounds 1–5, you must enter the "seed" ranking (between 1 and 16) corresponding to the team you think will win each game. Seed rankings are shown next to a team's name as a small gray number. For example, "1Pittsburgh" indicates that Pittsburgh is designated by the 1-seed. Theoretically, the lower-numbered seed, the better the team; but there are always underdogs who pull upset victories!

Note: For Round 1 (First Four) games, you must specify the team's seed and designation, separated by a decimal point, i.e., "16.1".

In Rounds 6 and 7, you must select the team's corresponding region and seed.

For the tiebreakers, simply enter the value you think will be closest to the correct answer, without commas or other non-numerical characters.

Note: It is possible to submit nonsensical picks, such as a "99-seed," or even to submit blank picks; however, such picks will earn no points. Please take care when entering your picks as once they're locked, you cannot change them.

When do I have to make my picks?

All picks open at the start of the challenge on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 8:00pm EDT. Due to the unique scoring method used by this challenge, it is to your advantage to submit all picks as early as possible. Ideally, you should have a completed bracket with your preliminary picks submitted before the tournament begins.

That said, there are hard deadlines for finalizing picks, which vary according to which round of the tournament you're picking for:

This information is broken down in the table below:

Games in GroupDeadline for Picks
both First Four (Round 1) Day One games and the challenge tiebreakersTuesday, March 14, 20175:30pm EDT
both First Four (Round 1) Day Two gamesWednesday, March 15, 20175:30pm EDT
all sixteen Round 2 Day One gamesThursday, March 16, 201711:00am EDT
all sixteen Round 2 Day Two gamesFriday, March 17, 201711:00am EDT
all eight Round 3 Day One gamesSaturday, March 18, 201711:00am EDT
all eight Round 3 Day Two gamesSunday, March 19, 201711:00am EDT
all four Sweet Sixteen (Round 4) Day One gamesThursday, March 23, 20176:00pm EDT
all four Sweet Sixteen (Round 4) Day Two gamesFriday, March 24, 20176:00pm EDT
both Elite Eight (Round 5) Day One gamesSaturday, March 25, 20175:00pm EDT
both Elite Eight (Round 5) Day Two gamesSunday, March 26, 20171:00pm EDT
both semifinal (Round 6) gamesSaturday, April 1, 20175:00pm EDT
the championship (Round 7) gameMonday, April 3, 20178:00pm EDT

To convert these times to your time zone, log in and change your time zone settings on your settings page, then come back here.

During the challenge, the countdown timer at the top of the page can be used as an aide to help you figure out roughly how much time you have remaining to make each round of picks if you are unsure. The deadline is enforced strictly, however, according to the applicable server time at the time a submission is processed. No extensions of these deadlines will be granted for any reason, including failure of the submission server.

In short, print out this section and stick it to your refrigerator. Or just commit it to memory. You don't want to miss out on a chance to tweak your picks mid-tournament.

How are the brackets scored?

A total of 3600 points are available: 100 in Round 1, 800 each in Rounds 2 and 3, 600 each in Rounds 4 and 5, 400 in Round 6, and 300 in Round 7. The points earned for each correct pick vary based on which round the pick is made for and when the pick is made, according to the following table:

Picked before the Round 1 gamePicked before the Round 2 gamePicked before the Round 3 gamePicked before the Round 4 gamePicked before the Round 5 gamePicked before the Round 6 gamePicked before the Round 7 game
Each of 4 Round 1 games25 points
Each of 32 Round 2 games25 points25 points
Each of 16 Round 3 games50 points50 points35 points
Each of 8 Round 4 games75 points75 points60 points45 points
Each of 4 Round 5 games150 points150 points100 points75 points60 points
Each of 2 Round 6 games200 points200 points160 points120 points100 points75 points
Round 7 game300 points300 points240 points200 points160 points125 points100 points

Note: The maximum point values for games in Rounds 2–7 are the same whether you pick them before Round 1 or Round 2, due to the small number of games played in Round 1 and the relatively insignificant effect they have on the Round 2 games. Beyond Round 2, the potential point values decrease as the time of the pick gets closer to that round's games, based on the relevant deadlines for earlier picks.

For each game, only the most recent pick is saved to your bracket. As such, the timestamp of the most recent edit for each pick is the timestamp that will be used to score your bracket. In other words, if you initially pick Ohio State to win the championship (Round 7) game, but change your pick to Duke before Round 5, you cannot earn more than 160 points from the game. If, before Round 6, you change your mind and switch the pick back to Ohio State, you would only earn 125 points from the game if you were correct, even though your original pick (which was effectively the same) could have been worth 300.

Only submit changes when you've got enough new information to be certain about them, such as one or more teams losing in the preceding rounds, because you can't get the old timestamp back once you've submitted a change. Rest assured, though, that only the picks which you actually change are given a new timestamp; the timestamps of your unchanged picks remain the same as they were when you made them.

If you're curious when you last made an edit and how many points your pick is thus potentially worth, hover your mouse over any pick field in the bracket editor.

How will the tiebreakers work?

Guesses for the tiebreakers are due one hour before the scheduled start of the first game in Round 1. They are found at the bottom of the submission form:

  1. Total points scored in all 67 games of the tournament
  2. Total points scored in the final championship game

Hopefully they won't be too necessary, but the system for tiebreaking is rigorous by design — just in case — so there are no squabbles later. After the challenge has ended, within each group of entrants who are tied, having earned the same number of points from Rounds 1–7:

No tiebreakers will be applied during the challenge; any entrants which are tied will be listed alphabetically as such in the standings. Tiebreakers will only be applied to the official final standings posted to the Facebook page.

How can I get updates on the status of the challenge?

To get the latest updates and announcements on the Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge, including pick deadline reminders and standings throughout the challenge, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Why do you need my email address?

Your email address is used primarily as an identifier for login. You may change it at any time from the settings page.

Additionally, the email address you provide may be used to send you important notifications about the status of the challenge as well as to invite you to participate in future challenges. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time.

What if I need to change my email address, time zone, or password?

You can make any of these changes from the settings page.

Please note: In order to change your password, you will have to confirm your current password as a security precaution.

What if I need to change my name?

Name changes are not permitted after sign up. Don't worry, though! Accounts are not carried forward from year to year, so you're only locked in for the three weeks of the challenge.

If you absolutely must change your displayed name during the challenge, please send me a message requesting the change and we'll get something sorted out. Make sure you specify that it's for the Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge and that you provide the email address and name you used when you signed up, as well as the new name you want.

Please note that all names displayed on this site are subject to approval. There is no "real names" policy; however, all names used here should at least minimally resemble plausible real names.

Can you recover my password if I forgot it?

No. Passwords are stored with one-way encryption and thus cannot be recovered once set. Please don't use a valuable password on this site; you only need to pick something that you can remember for three weeks.

If you forget your password, you can send me a message requesting that it be reset to a random one. Make sure you specify that it's for the Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge and that you provide the email address and name you used when you signed up. Once your password is reset, you can change it back to something (hopefully) more memorable from your settings page.

I'll get to requests for password resets as quickly as I'm able; however, no extensions of deadlines will be made.

Why does something look different on this site than it did a little while ago?

For the 2011 challenge, I coded this entire site and got it to a functional state in a span of just over 48 hours, along with this FAQ. Although the idea was brewing in my head for much longer, the time from proof-of-concept to Selection Sunday was about 72 hours. I more-or-less rushed to get the site live in time for the tournament and, in doing so, didn't have the time to perfect the superficial nuances of the site.

Since then, I've been a busy young professional, so the time I have had to make changes to the codebase year-to-year has been extremely limited, although I do make minor improvements each year.

So, if I see anything during the course of the challenge which is in need of some visual or cosmetic adjustment, I reserve the right to make said adjustment. If it happens to be something rather substantial which you think could affect how the bracket challenge plays out, take a deep breath and remember that any changes which are made to this site go live to everybody at the same time. No one's getting an unfair advantage with little superficial tweaks.

Why does something on this site look weird?

In my somewhat-rushed development of this site, I tested only in modern browsers. If you are using an outdated browser, such as Internet Explorer or Safari, there is a chance things might look ugly. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it.

There is, however, something you can do about it: Download a modern browser, like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, and use it when you're visiting this site (and preferably the rest of the Internet, too).

I found a bug!

That's not technically a question, but this is important enough that I'll let it slide.

I did a lot of testing before launching this site, but there's no way I could have possibly written perfect code. If you've found a bug anywhere on this site that is producing unexpected, weird, or otherwise faulty output, please send me a message right away! Make sure I know it's about the Pool of Randomness 2017 Bracket Challenge, and be as descriptive as possible when telling me how you came to see whatever you saw. Be sure to provide the email address and name you use on this site.

If you notify me of a bug, I will do my best to crush it as soon as I'm able. No bonus points will be awarded in the challenge, though, for finding bugs; only my undying thanks!