March Madness Survivor Pools
This NCAA Men's Tournament, let's help you live to tell the tale of how awesome Survivor Pools are.

How to Play (And Win) A March Madness Survivor Pool

Looking to try something new for this NCAA Tourney? We've got just the game type for you.

Nicky G
Nicky G

If you're like me, you've lost every single NCAA Tournament pool you've ever played in since you were old enough to pick every 5 seed over every 12 seed.  (Not the ideal strategy, apparently!)

So this March Madness, to end your losing ways, you may want to change things up.

Or, you might be a natural winner. You might just want to dominate your friends, family, and coworkers in yet another type of March Madness game.

I'm not here to judge.

What I am here to do is this: Convince you to try a new game type that's very different from the everyday March Madness bracket — and it's very fun.

It's called March Madness Survivor.

What is March Madness Survivor?

It's a game that works like this:

  • Each Survivor pool member chooses one March Madness team each day or round to win their game (the cadence of picks is a setting decided by the pool commissioner).
  • Each NCAA team can only be picked once throughout the entire tournament.
  • If a member's pick is correct, they move on until the next day/round — AKA they "survive."
  • An incorrect pick eliminates the player from the pool for the remainder of the tournament. Commissioners may offer Mulligans, if they're feeling benevolent.
  • The goal is to be the the last member standing at the end of the tournament.

Why do people enjoy playing March Madness Survivor?

The ease and simplicity of this game type is a major draw.

In fact, the beauty of a Survivor pool format is that it is simple enough to allow almost anyone to participate in March Madness, while at the same time being challenging enough for even the biggest college basketball fan.

This is because you don't have to pick every college basketball game. You just gotta pick the right one.

So what's the nitty-gritty of playing in a March Madness Survivor pool?

While this game type may seem simple, there are a few things that any player must consider in order to have success during their March Madness survivor pool.

This starts with the major rule: Don't pick a team that will lose. Especially in the early rounds.

It's also important to note that you also don't want to pick a team that you think will be going to the Final Four or the National Championship game. Users will have to consider the long game, as well.

If you pick, for example, Arizona on Day 1 and Duke on Day 2 and then both these teams end up playing each other in the National Championship game, you'll be immediately eliminated from contention then. Or, even before that, you'll be down to 50/50 odds in your Final 4, and so on.

So what teams do you pick?

Ideally, you'll pick a team that's going to win, but also a team that you don't think is going to go farther than the next step in the tournament. Think a 1-seed is super-overrated? Perfect. One seeds tend to almost always dominate their first game (with the notable exception of UMBC and Virginia a few years ago). Pick the over-rated 1 seed your first day and kick back and relax.

Just remember that with such a small pool of teams (64), there are only going to be 32 winners after the first weekend, 16 after the next round, 8, and so forth. Every team you pick that makes it far into the tournament limits the amount of picks you'll have as you move on as well.

Does that mean I should just pick lower seeds?

No! It most definitely does not.

Remember this an extremely risky strategy, considering that there are no guarantees that you'll get through the entire first weekend unscathed.

However, given that lower seeds tend to fall as they advance through the tournament, you could be rewarded for your risky pick by having more teams available to choose from at later stages in the tournament.

Plus, let's just be honest, it's a little more exciting to pick the underdog and get it right.

And there's always those sweet, sweet bragging rights to pick the Cinderella.

In conclusion

Let's recap:

It's called a survivor pool and it's basically the opposite of a standard March Madness bracket.

With a regular bracket, you're not necessarily worried about what team will win, but rather what team will win out of all the potential teams that could win.

In this pool, you care about a team staying "alive" just long enough to move you on to the next round.

So get out there and avoid elimination for as long as humanly possible!

This alternative game type might just be the difference between yet another year of defeat and the sweet, sweet taste of victory.

Nicky G

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