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ESPN’s bracket service is free, as are many of its competitors, and allows users to easily pick teams and set up their own competitive leagues. True devotees of the Big Dance can pay for premium features if they want to go the whole nine yards, but anyone trying to save a dime will find themselves privy to plenty of content. Of course it doesn’t hurt that there is a cash incentive as well: Score the most points out of all registrants and win a $10,000 gift card to Best Buy.
CBS Sports is by far one of the most popular online bracket managers, and it offers a boatload of features some sites make you to pay for. You can determine the rules of your league, talk smack to your friends, and even set up a private URL for easy sharing. Of course, what it really brings to the table is the ability to simultaneously keep an eye on your bracket while streaming live games on the site with the help of NCAA March Madness Live. As a bit of added incentive, the winner of the CBS Bracket Challenge wins a trip for two to the following year’s Final Four.
Yahoo has one of the more impressive systems available, especially for anyone who isn’t terribly clued in to college basketball or might be filling out a bracket for the first time. For starters, Yahoo lets you create unsaved brackets, so you can stay as noncommittal as you want. It also gives you step by step instructions through the process, eventually instructing you to choose a group – be it one with friends and coworkers or even complete strangers. It also offers a bevy of research and background info right from the bracket page, and has a Scenario Generator feature for discovering your bracket’s potential.
Some of you traditionalists will undoubtedly favor the NCAA’s official bracket based on principle alone. It might not have all the bells and whistles that some of the competing sites do, but filling out your bracket is extremely easy, and the site features a clean, easy-on-the-eyes layout. And with all the hours you’ll spend monitoring the thing, you’ll definitely appreciate it.