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Here’s a good question: what the heck is a bracket? You’ve probably heard about it before, but let’s face it, basketball can be REALLY confusing for a beginner, or for someone who just hasn’t spent that much time paying attention. Whatever the case may be, you’re here now, you have a need to know, and we’re going to get you caught up by first telling you what a bracket is.

What is a Sports Bracket?

Okay, to start, the bracket, or a tournament bracket, is a tree diagram. In this diagram you will find a representation of the games played during a series, and different game formats will have different brackets and usually you have the single-elimination tournament. The name ‘bracket’ is basically for the link resemblance in the tree diagram, and while it looks complex, it’s pretty simple really.

For some tournaments, the full bracket will be determined and announced before the first match, and if you’re keen on betting, you’re going to have fun on this one. There is nothing quite as entertaining as attempting to determine who the winners will be ahead of time, and if you want to take it even further, you can try to determine who will win subsequent games, all before that first game is even played. Yep, it gets pretty complicated, but it’s a blast. Brackets are also a staple of fantasy sports games, so keep that in mind if you really want to delve deep into the sports world.

Bracket Restructuring in the NBA

Starting in the 2016 playoffs, the NBA performed some restructuring for bracket seeding. From there on out, the eight teams in each conference would be seeded based upon their record. For example, if a team was a division champion in the past, then they would be seeded no lower than four. This goes in direct contrast to the NFL’s bracket seeding practices, leading many to believe that the NBA simply ‘got it right’. For reference, in the NFL, bracket reseeding can push a team down further than it deserves to go.

Who Gets the Highest Seed?

In any contest you’re going to have ties, and when it comes to the NBA, the brackets can be affected. Say that two teams end the season with the same record – at that point the head to head results will determine who has the highest seed. If the head to head record is identical, then the division champion would have the higher seed. Moving further, a third tie breaker would compare the win-loss record against teams in their division. Finally, if this does not bring a resolution, then the win-loss percentage will be used.


In the NBA Playoffs you will have a total of 16 teams with the top 8 from each conference participating. The teams in each conference are seeded from 1 to 8, all based on their record. Teams with the best records (in their conference) will receive the 1 to 8 seeds, and teams with the best record in their conference will be given the overall #1 seeds. It goes down from there.

Rounding it Up

In the NBA, there are no bye weeks, which sets it apart from the NFL. That said, all 16 teams play in the first round, and the four winning teams in each conference will be moved to the second round. Following that, the two winning teams in each conference will move on, and the winner of each conference championship will compete in the finals.

Keep an eye on this years’ teams, because while the brackets might look definitive, there is always room for a surprise.


S&S Inside