It's the big dilemma for the fantasy NCAA basketball tournament pool manager: paper brackets or digital? Whichever option you choose, I've got you covered.
When I was a kid, the announcement of the teams and seedings in the NCAA men's basketball tournament was always accompanied by furious scribbling as I tried to manually create an instant tournament bracket. I just couldn't wait until the newspaper arrived the next morning to start making my picks.
The advent of the VCR reduced the furious scribbling, and the Web eliminated the need to write down teams at all. Now we get all the information as soon as it's reported.
There are a lot of good free NCAA tournament "pick 'em" games online, including a bracket challenge at the official NCAA site and long-standing fantasy contests at ESPN, Yahoo, The Sporting News, and CBS SportsLine. Prizes include tickets to the 2009 Final Four and plasma TVs, so expect competition to be fierce.
In fact, if you've got a Yahoo account and would like to join my competition, create your bracket and then join private group 122313. The password is "br00kl0p3z"...can you tell I'm a Stanford fan? I can't promise any prizes, but I'll work on it.
While finding free games online is easy, creating your own private tournament contest or office pool is not. For a quality free all-in-one solution, I continue to recommend FreeTrak, a bare-bones app that includes all of the 2008 teams and seedings.
If you're looking to take your pool up a notch, check out Turbo Tourney or Turbo Tourney Pro. The software is built to run any sort of tournament, and it has loads of features for handling NCAA pools.
However, sometimes the easiest way to build interest in a pool is to personally hand out printed brackets. The software mentioned above will also certainly allow printing blank brackets, but you can't really customize them very much.
If you're looking for a basic, customizable, printable bracket for offline pools, I've got you covered there too. Using the free design application Inkscape, I created a printable NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket template for anyone to download.
Inkscape is a vector graphics editor, which means that images and objects can scale easily, so team names and brackets can be resized as you like. The SVG file is included in a downloadable ZIP file on the template product page. Inkscape also exports PDF files, so I created a printable version of the bracket if you want a down-and-dirty printout for brainstorming upset picks or tracking winners. The PDF file is also included in the downloadable ZIP.
In order to print the PDF file, you'll need a PDF reader like Adobe Acrobat Reader or Foxit PDF Reader. In order to edit the SVG file, you'll need a vector graphics editor like the aforementioned Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator.
So what do you use to manage your NCAA basketball tournament pool? Software, printable brackets, or both? Tell me about it in the comments.
P.S. If anyone is interested, I'd be glad to make SVG and PDF versions of the bracket for the NCAA women's basketball tournament as well. Just ask in the comments.