Original Story | ESPN
March 1st, 2016
Welcome to the 2016 men’s basketball Tournament Challenge. It’s that time of year again, when all the chatter about teams involves phrases like: body of work; good wins; bad losses; and of course, RPIs, résumés and the dreaded “bubble.” Once the field of 68 has been announced, though, how teams got in matters little, and the excitement of filling out your bracket begins.
All you have to do is select who you think will win each of the 63 tournament games, which start March 17 (for those hoping to pick the First Four games, you’ll have to give our Streak for the Cash game a try). For each game you get right, you earn points. The point value for a correct pick increases with each round of the tournament, culminating with the championship game on April 4 in Houston. Once you’ve made your selections, all you do is sit back, relax and pull for your picks to survive and advance.
If you score the most points, you’ll have a chance to win the grand prize of a $10,000 Amazon Gift Card and a trip to the 2016 Maui Invitational.
Considering the unpredictable nature of the tournament every year, you certainly don’t have to be a college basketball savant to be successful. It’s a fun and easy game to play against friends, family and coworkers. You’ll see the seeds on the bracket, which will give you a better idea of which teams are expected to advance in each round. But don’t be too influenced by those numbers, because upsets happen every year, and picking the right ones is what separates the haves from the have-nots in Tournament Challenge.
And that’s where the real fun lies.
It’s your bracket. Pick whatever you want. Better yet, we’ll give you the opportunity to fill out up to 10 brackets, so you can get creative with your picks and hedge your bets, if you so choose. Pick the school with the best colors, take your chances with the schools closest to where you live, play the mascot card when determining your selections.
Want to play it safe and take the chalk picks to reach the Final Four? Last year featured three No. 1 seeds in the semifinals (Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky) along with No. 7 Michigan State, with Duke going on to win the championship over Wisconsin.
Or do you want to be bold and take a huge underdog to make a deep run? If you know someone who pegged seventh-seeded UConn to win it all in 2014, it’s likely they’ll never let you forget it. Plus, in the past four years, teams seeded 14th or worse have seven wins in the round of 64. In 2015, a pair of 14-seeds pulled off upsets, including Georgia State beating Baylor and UAB defeating Iowa State. Will results like these persuade you to pick upsets, or do you expect higher seeds to hold up their end this year?
It has been a topsy-turvy season at or near the top of the rankings, with Kansas, Villanova, Oklahoma, Michigan State, North Carolina and Kentucky among the teams to occupy the No. 1 slot. With so much movement at the top, will you pick a blue-blood program like Kansas to win it all, or do you go with a less-heralded contender such as Xavier, which has yet to reach a Final Four?
Take your best shot at the top of the leaderboard. (Also, be sure to check back here before the Sweet 16 tips off on March 24 to play Tournament Challenge Second Chance, the game that gives you another go at the bracket.)