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March Madness Brackets for Bonding

NCAA basketball brackets can bring couples closer, according to brain science.

Key points

  • Filling out NCAA brackets can create connection and intimacy as couples engage in prediction, collaboration, and communication.
  • Watching games together can deepen bonds as couples experience a range of emotions across battles that play out over three weeks.
  • This is not a magic solution to relationship problems, but it can be a fun way to deepen connections and create shared memories.
Source: Yaroslav-Shuraev/Pexels

Nobody is perfect. Same goes for pretty much every single NCAA basketball bracket. The odds of correctly predicting the winners of each of the 63 total games in the 64-team tournament are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Yikes! Forget that. You have a much better shot at finding a long-term romantic partner that is perfect for you. I don't have the probability numbers on that, but let's assume it is way more likely than the perfect bracket.

From March Madness to Madly in Love

Every March, millions of Americans tune in to watch the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness. Fans across the country fill out brackets, hoping to predict the winners of every game and ultimately be crowned the champion of their pool. But what if I told you that filling out a bracket could do more than just win you some money or bragging rights? What if I told you that filling out a bracket could actually bring couples closer together?

It may seem far-fetched, but hear me out. There's a solid body of scientific evidence that suggests that participating in shared activities can strengthen romantic relationships. And what could be more shared than filling out NCAA brackets and watching games together?

The Power of Bonding

At first glance, it may seem like an unlikely candidate for a bonding experience. After all, what do a bunch of college basketball games have to do with love? But the process of filling out a bracket together can actually create feelings of connection and intimacy.

Here's how it works. When couples fill out a bracket together, they're engaging in a shared activity that requires collaboration and communication. They have to talk about which teams they think will win and why, negotiate their differences of opinion, and come to a consensus about their final picks. In the process, they're building trust and strengthening their communication skills.

Head-to-Head or Teamwork?

Couples can just as easily fill out individual brackets, then have loads of fun seeing how the games play out. In most years, partners will end up both congratulating and consoling the other throughout the tournament (upsets happen all the time when underdogs win, but it is so hard to predict which games will produce upsets). Either way—doing brackets together or individually—the real benefit comes from actively participating in the process as a dynamic group.

But it's not just about keeping track of brackets. It's also about the shared experience of watching the games unfold. When couples watch the games together, they're experiencing a range of emotions— excitement, disappointment, frustration, and joy—all of which can create a sense of bonding. They're also engaging in something that's bigger than themselves—rooting for their favorite teams (or the team they picked) alongside millions of other fans—which can create a sense of belonging and connection.

The Science of Synchronized Brains

Of course, not every couple is going to become closer just because they fill out an NCAA bracket together. It's not a magic solution to relationship problems. But for couples who already have a strong foundation of trust and communication, filling out a bracket together can be a fun and meaningful way to deepen their connection.

Recent neuroscience research shows that marital success could lie in the synchronization of a couple’s brain waves. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the happier couples are, the more their brains sync up in certain situations. Brain synchronization was a better predictor of marital satisfaction than age, sex, length of marriage, or personality traits. We should take it as a positive sign when couples' brains sync up because of a basketball tournament, or anything else for that matter.

Not Just Romantic Relationships

Filling out a bracket with friends or family members can also create feelings of connection and camaraderie. Some workplaces even organize office pools, which can create a sense of community and teamwork among coworkers.

So, should you fill out an NCAA bracket with your significant other? Ultimately, that's up to you. But if you're looking for a way to strengthen your relationship and create some shared memories, it might be worth a shot. Who knows? You might just end up with a little bit more than bragging rights at the end of the tournament.

Copyright © 2023 Kevin Bennett, Ph.D. All rights reserved.


Li, L., Huang, X., Xiao, J., Zheng, Q., Shan, X., He, C., Liao, W., Chen, H., Menon, V., & Duan, X. (2022). Neural synchronization predicts marital satisfaction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(34), e2202515119.

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