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Once the field of 68 is announced on Selection Sunday, it’s time to go to work on this year’s bracket and get started with betting on the NCAA tournament games.

There’s a good chance if you are reading this article, you have filled out a bracket for March Madness.  For most of you, it’s something you have done every year since you were a kid.  I’ve already posted my expert bracket predictions like I have been doing for 15+ years.

Back in the day, the majority of the brackets submitted were entered into office pools. Now it’s even easier to make your predictions with all the online March Madness contests that go on.

For those of you wondering where it all began. It’s believed that the first bracket pool originated back in 1977. A bar in Staten Island is said to have held a $10 pool with 88 people. That same bar in 2006 was said to have 150,000 participants with prize money of more than $1.5 million.

It’s safe to say that the draw for filling out a bracket has grown quite a bit over the years.

Number of NCAA Tournament Brackets Submitted During March Madness

According to the American Gaming Association, 56.3 million people filled out at least one bracket last year. It would be impossible to drill down an exact total from this, but if we make some basic assumptions about what percentage of this number fills out two or more brackets, we think we can get close.

Our estimate is that around 83 million brackets were filled out last year, an 18% increase from 2022. If that kind of growth continues, 2024 could be the first year that 100 million brackets are submitted across the U.S.!

Why are so Many People Filling out a Bracket Contest Each Year?

While there are those that just submit a bracket just to say they did, most to do so for a chance at winning something.

Almost every office pool comes with an entry fee, where the top brackets take home a percentage of the pot.

The AGA estimates that the average bracket entry fee is $29. They also project that a total of $2.4 billion is wagered on pools alone. That gives you a good idea of just how much money is bet on college basketball this time of year.

Most of the contests online are free to enter, but offer up some big prizes.

There’s even some that offer up over $1 million for anyone who can pick all 63 games correctly. As unlikely as it is to pick a perfect bracket, it definitely adds to the total number.

The unpredictability of the tournament also plays a big role in the popularity.  Our upset predictions will help you find the first round surprises.  The tournament sleepers we select are higher seeds we feel have the potential for a deep run.

A big reason for the unpredictability is due to the 68-team format. Back when the field was much smaller, upsets weren’t as likely.  Remember that when you look at the winners by seed.

Without upsets we wouldn’t see near the draw for what has become a national phenomenon.

If the lowest seeds always won and it was easy to predict, the interest simply wouldn’t be there.  Even the favorites to win the tournament only have a 20% or less chance of winning!

I’ve been in pools where people who know absolutely nothing about the teams playing end up doing well. It’s why you see so many women and non-sports enthusiasts take part in these contests.