How to Fill Out Your 2021 March Madness Bracket

David Glidden
3 min readMar 15, 2021
Will you pick the tournament champion correctly this year?

2022 update: the 2022 bracket will be available likely by end of day Monday, March 21st, 2022. Follow me and subscribe to get the bracket delivered directly to your inbox once ready. Last year went pretty well, with my optimal bracket placing in the 87.2nd percentile of all EPSN brackets. I personally placed first in a pool with a sizable payout where I was able to submit 3 brackets, one of them with Baylor over Gonzaga as I had suggested below.

Editor’s note: As of Tuesday evening, March 16th, the crowd has shifted enough towards Illinois to merit going contrarian and advancing Baylor to the Championship game instead of Illinois. Oregon also advances over VCU due to an earlier data error. The bracket below has been updated accordingly.

In 2018 I shared the in-depth method I used to fill out my NCAA basketball tournament bracket using the optimal mathematical strategy. It worked out well for me — I correctly picked Villanova as the tournament winner and ranked in the 94th percentile among the 17.3 million brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge pool.

In 2019, the same method correctly picked Virginia to win the tournament, placing in the 97th percentile among 17.2 million ESPN brackets.

In this post, I’ve applied the same mathematical methodology to this year’s 2021 March Madness optimal bracket — download your own copy to use it verbatim or simply use it as a foundation as you fill out your bracket.

The Mathematically Optimal 2021 Bracket

The bottom line? Pick Gonzaga to win it all against Baylor, with Illinois and Alabama rounding out the Final Four, and Iowa, Houston, Ohio State, and Michigan filling out the Elite Eight. The math this year produces an extremely chalky bracket once again, with all teams in the Elite Eight seeded 1 or 2. However, picking Baylor and Alabama over crowd favorites Michigan and Illinois should create sufficient variation to win out your pool if things go your way. Consider this: The crowd is favoring Michigan (70%) in a game against Alabama (30%) when FiveThirtyEight

David Glidden

In the District of Columbia with @egbarnett. Ops at @TheoremOne.