ESPN vs RunYourPool Battle of the Brackets
Who wins in the best bracket provider for March Madness? Read below and you may be shocked to find out.

Battle of the NCAA Brackets: ESPN vs. RunYourPool

How to choose the right NCAA brackets host this year

Nicky G
Nicky G

We don’t have long before Selection Sunday arrives and the need to set up your March Madness really heats up.

The three-day window to get up and running is exceptionally narrow, so you'll want your pool ready. That means finding a fun, intuitive host-with-the-most who has all the features you want, and not a bunch of ads to get in your way.

Today, the RunYourPool team pulls out some key features you should look for in your March Madness brackets host, and why it matters.

We've got our sights set on the giant that most people seem to use without batting an eye: ESPN's Men's Tournament Challenge.

What to Look for in Your NCAA Brackets Pool Host

Finding a March Madness brackets host shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s not enough to go with the first site you stumble across, either.

You want to start your March Madness pools on a site you know will grow with you and your friends, family, or colleagues — and provide the exact experience you and your other players want.

ESPN is obviously one of the best-known and largest sports broadcasters in the world. So it’s unsurprising that they get in on the pool hosting action. Does that mean they do everything perfectly? Hardly. Does that mean March Madness brackets are an afterthought for them?

Are we asking leading questions?


But let’s take a candid look at the features offered by ESPN March Madness Challenge and compare them to the average RunYourPool experience.

Is The UI Easy-To-Use?

If you wanted to do this the hard way, you’d be firing up your spreadsheets. So there’s no point in picking a host who has a messy, non-intuitive user interface that has you shaking your fist in the air at every turn. You want simple to understand, simple to use, and well designed.
(+) ESPN Tournament Challenge:  A bit messy from ads, but useable.
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: Ease of use is a design priority, not how to sell you stuff you don't want

Are There Other March Madness Game Types to Play?

Whether or not you are interested in game variants depends on you and the people playing your pool. Maybe you want to keep it as simple as possible, and stick to the one NCAA bracket format. Or maybe you’re a little tired of the same-old, same-old, and want to shake it up with exciting new formats. Either way, you need a host that matches your play style.
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: Sticks to a typical hohum March Madness bracket format
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: There are other game types you can play, including Survivor, Head-to-Head, and PickX

Is There Customer Service? Is It Good?

What happens if something goes wrong? The last place you want to be is in a purgatory loop trying to get answers instead of enjoying the game from a company as huge as ESPN. So it’s not just enough to say, “Yes, we have customer service.” Can they put their money where their mouth is and provide you with responsive, effective help in a timely manner?
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: There’s no dedicated support offered for the NCAA brackets
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: Our customer service team is responsive, considerate, and typically resolving tickets within an hour

Is It Ads-Free?

As they say, nothing in this life is free. Many free pool hosting sites like ESPN make up their revenue by offering ad space. It’s not a deal-breaker in itself, if it’s discreetly offered, but it can get annoying fast. And if your host is riddled with pop-ups and nag features, it’s going to drive you nuts. Ever try to watch a 10 second clip on ESPN only to have to sit through commercials that last three times as long? We sure have.
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: Expect a reduced user experience from ads
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: You won’t see an ad on our platform

Can You Customize Your March Madness Pool?

As with our second feature, not everyone wants to be able to set their own rules and point values. But if you do, there’s no good setting up the pool and discovering your host won’t let you. So you need to find the right partner from the start.
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: Sticks to the default format
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: You can use either our default values or rules or customize them to your bracket pool's needs

Can You Customize the Branding of Your Brackets?

Did you even think of this one? We don’t blame you if you didn’t, but it’s good to find a host that will also let you brand your pool. Whether it’s just-for-fun for camaraderie among friends, or to leverage your office pool into a full team-building exercise, it’s nice to be able to add a personal touch to your pool.
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: The only branding is theirs
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: Yes, you will be able to make your pool your own through branding

Can You Run Reports?

The first rule of anything like March Madness pools is transparency and clarity. Reports are a key part of that. Some of your more serious players will want all the facts at their fingertips. Others just want to know everything is on the up-and-up. You want to know you can do this easily and quickly without undue effort on your side.
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: This feature isn’t offered
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: Offers a host of report types

Is There An App?

Everyone likes doing things differently. Some want the convenience of playing from their mobile. Others need a screen so they can pour over stats. Either way, it’s great if your March Madness Pool Host can be used on a variety of platforms.
(-) ESPN Tournament Challenge: ESPN allows access through the ESPN Tournament Challenge App
(+) RunYourPool March Madness: Also allows easy access through their own-branded and updated app

Noticing a trend? Yeah, we thought so.

While nobody can beat ESPN's quality of broadcasting, we think we've proven our point that just having a bracket pool option isn't enough.

For the fact of the matter, March Madness isn't something we do as a side hustle from our broadcasting jobs. It's something we live and breathe here at RunYourPool.

The RYP team is proud to offer you one of the very best March Madness experiences in the world, so feel free to put us to the test here.

We're always willing to answer your questions or help you get your own pool set up correctly, so just ask. We're only an email away at !

Nicky G

Dad of 3. WVian by birth. ATX for now.