Keys to winning USA TODAY Sports' March Madness survivor pools: Step 1 is to enter

Filling out a March Madness bracket is a daunting task.

Compared to correctly predicting the fate of 68 teams through six rounds, the USA TODAY Sports' March Madness survivor pool games appear to be a much more accessible challenge.

Make a small number of picks each round. If you get them right, you advance. Last the longest without missing a pick and collect some serious cash. And you get two chances to win by competing in both the men's and women's survivor pools.

Is it really that simple?

Well, here's the catch: You can only pick a team once during the entire tournament. Each of your picks must be correct to advance to the next round. If you fail to make any or all picks in a round, you are eliminated.

Ahead of Selection Sunday, which will reveal the 68-team fields for both tournaments, USA TODAY Sports announced two brand new survivor pool games to give fans a chance to win $5,000, the amount awarded to the person who lasts the longest in the men's or women's pools.

USA TODAY Sports women's NCAA tournament survivor pool

Don't take the challenge lightly

Speak to those who participated in USA TODAY Sports' NFL survivor pool this season and you'll likely learn the game is not as easy as it seems.

In addition to only being allowed to select a team once for the entire tournament, there are other wrinkles designed to make the game more challenging.

You can only advance by hitting on all your picks. But if two players hit all their picks, the player who correctly picked teams with cumulatively higher seeds will win.

For example, if Player 1 selected teams seeded 3-3-2 (total 8) and Player 2 selected teams seeded 4-5-6 (total 15), then Player 2 would be ahead in the tiebreaker standings.

There is an inherent risk in relying on teams with high seeds to help you survive, but it could come in handy if you make it to the end.

Players will also make a different amount of picks each round, following the completion of the play-in games. Here is the breakdown:

  • Round of 64: Three picks
  • Round of 32: Two picks
  • Sweet 16: One pick
  • Elite Eight: One pick
  • Final Four: One pick
  • Championship: One pick
USA TODAY Sports men's NCAA tournament survivor pool

Beware of locking yourself out

If you survive long enough to compete in the Final Four, there is a very important potential pitfall to keep in mind while making selections in the earlier rounds.

If teams you already selected make up the Final Four, you are automatically eliminated because you can't select the same team twice. The same goes for the championship game.

As a result, players should be strategic with their selections. Think the Purdue men or UConn women are destined to win it all? Then don't select them in the first round because those picks will be unavailable to you later on. You'll want to focus on specific matchups and individual game advantages one team might have against another. So do your research!

How it works

Let's recap:

1. Join one or both survivor pools.

2. Survive the longest with the highest cumulative seed value and you could win a $5,000 cash prize per pool. (Must meet eligibility requirements)

Rules to remember: Correctly pick a select number of March Madness winners each round. If any of your picks lose, you're eliminated. If all your picks hit in a given round, you survive and earn points equal to those teams' cumulative seed value. You can only select each team once for the entire tournament. If you fail to make any or all of your picks in a given round, you're eliminated.