March Madness 2015: Cool apps, alternative brackets, and tools to win your pool

How to stream NCAA tournament games, mobile apps for keeping up with your bracket, and some online tools and resources to help you win your bracket pool.

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Sports!

The 2015 NCAA tournament kicks off in earnest today, now that the play-in rounds are complete and the final 64 teams are set. There are more ways to keep up with the action now than ever before. Here are the video streaming options, mobile apps, and other tools to help you stay informed and up-to-date with the action.

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Obligatory streaming slide

Gone are the days of digging through message boards and clicking on suspicious URLs to try to find a live stream of NCAA tournament games while at work. The NCAA streams all of the action through its March Madness Live app, available on the web as well as on iOS and Android. And for those watching at work, March Madness Live has the "Boss Button," which, when clicked, opens a fake PowerPoint-style document complete with nonsense bar graphs that will make you look like you're actually being productive when your boss happens to walk by. Genius.

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The popular bracket apps

Let's also get these ones out of the way: ESPN's Tournament Challenge (iOS and Android), CBS Sports (Android, iOS), and Yahoo Tourney Pick 'Em (AndroidiOS) all provide access to the most popular sources for tournament brackets on your smartphone or tablet. Some might prefer the traditional pen-and-paper bracket, but these mobile apps make it a lot easier to keep up with how you might be faring in your office bracket pool.

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A bracket you can change?!

Never afraid to experiment with new ideas, SB Nation was bold enough to roll out its Realtime Brackets, which allows users to change their picks after the tournament has started and even pick different winners during a game. This might sound like chaos, but a point system that awards more points to correct picks made pre-tournament keeps track of those who showed the most foresight and those who second-guessed too often. It's available on the web and for iOS and Android.

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Credit: WhiteHouse.gov via Facebook
Wired's bracket pool hack

Recognizing that you don't have to necessarily predict a perfect bracket, but simply more accurate predictions than the other people in your pool, Wired's Mark McClusky writes up his annual "hack," which compares data on the popular picks in online brackets against the data from several prediction sources. The idea is to find the teams that have a better chance to win than most people seem to be picking and to make your picks based on that. So when everyone follows some ESPN commentator's gut feeling on a popular upset, you can boldly pick the favorite.

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Credit: Georgia Tech H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Georgia Tech researchers' predictions

Researchers at Georgia Tech have become an annual go-to source for statistically sound NCAA tournament predictions based on their Logistic Regression/Markov Chain system. Check out the website for their methodology and their bracket, but don't expect a bold prediction – this year's Final Four includes two No. 1 seeds playing two No. 2 seeds, with the undefeated consensus favorite University of Kentucky cutting down the nets.

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FiveThiryEight's predictions

FiveThirtyEight has a really cool interactive bracket that shows their predicted odds of each team winning when you scroll over their name. You can also check out their methodology here, as well as some analysis of what makes this year's tournament different from a projections standpoint than those of the past few years.

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Credit: USA Today
Mobile apps help you catch the best live action

With so many games so cruelly scheduled on weekday afternoons, you can't always kick back and enjoy a full game. USA Today launched a mobile app last month that alerts users to the most exciting moments of a game. Another app, called Thuuz, has a similar system that lets users know when a game is about to get exciting – say, when time is running out in a tie game.

For those who don't want to download a new app, USA Today also runs a Twitter account called @SportsPSA, which notifies followers of potentially exciting game action as it approaches. The NCAA tournament could be a great time to activate Twitter notifications for this account.