A question that commonly comes up when setting up a tournament is this: how do you decide which teams will play, and in what order? Here’s our detailed guide on how to schedule your bracket.

Decide the tournament format

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide what type of tournament you want to run. Will it be a single elimination tournament? Double elimination? Round robin? They all have pros and cons, but the biggest differentiating factor is simply this: each type requires a different number of games to complete your tournament.

Single elimination

This is the simplest and fastest option. In a single elimination tournament, teams are assigned a specific spot in the bracket (more on that later). Each time a team loses, they are eliminated from the tournament completely, hence the name “single elimination”. The tournament will culminate in a final championship game, with the winner of that game becoming the champion of the tournament.

Single elimination tournaments are extremely easy to set up and run, but there is a major downside you definitely have to consider. It all comes down to the fact that teams will be unhappy paying to enter a tournament, only to be completely disqualified after one game if they lose right away. Since someone is disqualified every game, half of all of the teams in the tournament will go home after only playing one game. Unless the cost to enter the tournament was very low, you may anger a few of your customers.

Double elimination

Double elimination tournaments are a step up from single eliminations. As you might suspect, teams are only fully disqualified from the tournament once they’ve lost two games.

Again, there are pros and cons to this type of tournament. The biggest pro is that teams will be much more understanding of being disqualified if they have to lose twice before being completely eliminated. When compared to a round robin tourney, a double elimination tournament takes far fewer games to determine a winner.

The downsides to a double elimination tournament are important to note. First, you’ll need to dedicate more time to the tournament. Since double elimination tournaments require twice as many games to eliminate the same number of teams, you could be looking at doubling the time of a tournament when compared to a single elimination bracket. Secondly, if your costs increase with the number of games, like eg. if you have to pay referees per game, or pay per hour to rent a gymnasium, you’ll drastically increase the costs of your tournament. Finally, double elimination tournaments are slightly more complicated to set up. You’ll have to keep track of a teams record, who they’ve lost to, and when. You’ll also need to have a bracket that can support a “losers side”.

Round robin tournaments

Round robin tournaments are tournaments that function almost like a league. In the round robin format, every team in the tournament will play once against every other team. The winner of the tournament can then be determined by the team with the best record, or alternatively, the records of the teams can be used to seed the positions in a more traditional tournament bracket.

This type of setup is often the most fair, and the best way to guarantee that the best team of the tournament actually wins. There’s less chance of overall tournament upsets because of the number of games that a round robin format requires.

Of course, the biggest downside is that round robin tournaments take a huge number of games to finish. The minimum number of games is determined by the formula (# teams /2) * # teams – 1. So for a relatively small tournament of 8 teams, completion would require 28 games! A round robin tournament therefore makes sense mostly as a play-in to another bracket entirely.

Matching up teams in your tournament

Once you’ve decided on the format for your tournament, you’ll need to pick which teams will play each other. If you already have knowledge of the teams, perhaps from a previous tournament or a league, then it can often make sense to use that knowledge to seed a bracket. Again, the format of your tournament plays a role:

Single and double elimination tournaments

Single and double elimination tournaments are similar in that it seems like you might need to have a concrete seeding for teams. However, that’s not always the case. You can randomly assigns spots in a single elimination or double elimination bracket, and it’ll work out just fine. If you do have seeding, say from a play-in tournament or a league, then you should, of course, use that to determine the matchups in your tournament. Most bracket templates will clearly mark the seedings of each team – if you don’t have a bracket templates, you can use our tournament creator to easily decide for you.

Round robin tournaments

Round robin tournaments take the most work when setting up matchups, mostly because you have to schedule enough games so that every team plays every other one. That can mean a huge number of matchups to generate. Imagine you have a tournament with 12 teams. You’d have to schedule 66 games! On top of the huge number of games you must schedule, you have to ensure that you don’t schedule your self into a corner by matching up teams in such a way that you end up with your only option being to have two teams play each other again. Luckily, you can use our online league schedule generator to create matchups for tournaments or leagues, with any number of teams.

Try out RecLeague.net’s online basketball tournament tools

That’s all you’ll need to know for figuring out how to set up your basketball tournament as far as matchups and scheduling. Check out RecLeague.net’s free and easy to use tools for generating schedules, posting tournament news and updates, and posting the scores and statistics online LIVE from your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Good luck with your tournaments!

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