It's the best sports week of the year, they say. Nothing beats March Madness, they say. And then four hours into the first day of the NCAA tournament, your bracket is ruined and you never want to watch college basketball again.
This has happened to you, whether you've suppressed the memory or not. But as luck would have it, there's a bracket challenge game out there designed to keep your bracket unbusted—namely, ours.
SI's Realtime Brackets let you switch your pick during live tournament games if your original pick is losing. (Sign up today by clicking here.) The earlier in the game you switch to the winning call, the more pool points you earn. Traditional and realtime picks will both be tracked, so you will be able to refer to two leaderboards as the tournament goes on (and you will still have ammo to roast your friends who were victims of the year's biggest upsets).
It's a simple enough format, but if you're used to locking everything in by noon on Thursday and sitting back for the next three weeks, you still may have some questions. That's what we're here for. The complete rules and scoring format can be found here—below we'll hit some of the big- and small-picture things you may be wondering.
Realtime Brackets FAQs
1. Why would I switch my pick?
If your team is losing and you're not optimistic about a comeback, you'll want to salvage at least a few points heading into the next round. If you stick with your team to the bitter end and come out on the losing side of things, you'll obviously want to pick new winners for however far you had the losing team advancing. And if your team wins a game but in the process loses a key player to injury or looks like it might not go as far as you initially thought, you might want to switch things out so that they get knocked out a little earlier.
2. When can I switch my pick?
You can switch your picks for each game anytime during the game up until the final TV timeout (taken at the first stoppage in play with under four minutes to go in regulation) or before the next round’s game begins. Once the under-4 hits, your pick is your pick.
3. How many times can I switch my pick?
As many as you want—but once you switch, the maximum number of points you can earn from a correct pick drops, so if you switch back, you won't get the same credit you would have for sticking by your initial choice.
4. If I switch my pick away from a team I have advancing multiple rounds in the middle of a game, do I need to pick new winners for those later rounds of my bracket at the same time?
Nope—you stand to save yourself just as many points by switching your pick 48 hours before tipoff as you do by switching picks 20 seconds before tipoff. (But once the clock starts, the maximum number of points you get drops every TV timeout.) If your Final Four team goes down big in its first-round game and you switch picks, you'll only lose Round 1 points for that team if it stages a miraculous comeback, so there's no rush.
5. Can I play the traditional, no-switching-picks, no-turning-back way?
If your group's bragging rights still ride on who had the best bracket on Day 1, the game keeps leaderboards for both Original Brackets and Realtime Brackets.