NCAA March Madness tournament bracket has become one of the most exciting and engaging parts of the college basketball season. Not only do fans get the opportunity to watch their favorite teams compete against each other, but they also get to take on a role within the tournament by predicting and betting which team will beat the rest.

But how did it become such a favorite American pass time for fans, athletes, analysts, marketers and even presidents alike? How did the NCAA March Madness tournament bracket gain the recognition and popularity it has today? 


The history of the bracket system goes beyond basketball. You can trace brackets all the way to the medieval era in poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer, where he used “tournament bracket” formats to highlight tail rhymes.

It had its first sports introduction in the mid-1800’s with the 1851 London Chess Tournament established by Howard Staunton. He invited 32 of Europe’s top players to compete against each other in rounds of 16 pairs, 8 pairs, 4 pairs, etc. until only one chess champion emerged. This early, poorly constructed version of the bracket received many complaints over the unfairness of the match up’s and was altered and improved to the “round robin” format.

This is where “seeding” could have helped Howard. Unfortunately, for Howard, “seeding” wouldn’t be mentioned until 1898 in the American Lawn Tennis journal. It referred to “sowing” the best players throughout a tournament, principally ones revolving around tennis, separating those star players from each other as far as possible.

The NCAA basketball tournament began in 1939 with 8 teams, separated by 2 regional brackets, western and eastern regions. The national championship was held in Evanston, Illinois with Oregon emerging the winner. This tournament obviously grew in size and popularity with mainstream media taking hold of it and making it their own. The biggest expansion of this tournament’s bracket craze can be marked by the year of 1985, where the bracket expanded to 64 teams and thus making this tournament a season rather than an event.

Now, over 60 million Americans fill out NCAA March Madness brackets each year and potentially spend about $1 Billion on on off-book gambling. Major TV companies and sports networks have become active participants in bracketology, which has simply increased public interest for this pass-time.

But the system, whether it is the flawed introductory version in London or the modern, fan-focused, ad-driven system we know today, has the appeal it always has. People want to be able to predict the future; betting on their biases, beating out friends, competing in their own way and engage with the game, the players and their friends and family.


Now that you’ve had your history lesson, start creating your NCAA tournament interactive bracket today!

Want to create the perfect bracket this year? Check out some of our tips and tricks on how to better plan your 2017 march madness bracket here. Or how about learn more about the interactive world of bracketology? Check out our new site here!