Men’s Basketball Tournament Bracket in Radial Format

Taking up the challenge inspired by the soccer tournament bracket featured on this week, I put my Total Production Geek hat on, plopped myself in front of Adobe Illustrator for several hours and created this radial format version of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket (updated to show Kentucky as the 2012 champion).

Creative Credit: The original radial-bracket design concept was developed by Hyperakt for their World Cup poster.


Click on the image to view it larger on a new page, or just check out this close-up of the South region:


One of the most time-consuming aspects of the project was looking up the official colors of all 64 schools (my apologies to the 4 teams that lost the play-in games). Only two or three schools didn’t have style guides posted on their Web sites so getting the official hex or Pantone colors was just a matter of 64 Google searches. When in doubt, choose a dark blue from the Pantone 270s or 280s.

As for my approach in Illustrator:

  • I started with a 2,400 px radial grid with six concentric dividers and 64 radial dividers.
  • I trimmed that down to just one quarter of the outermost ring to work on the sixteen teams of one region at a time.
  • I converted the radial dividers into guides, locked the two arcs that formed the inside and outside edges, and then used the pen tool to create the dividing line between each game.
  • After unlocking the arcs I converted the group into a Live Paint object to fill in each space with the correct school colors.
  • Copy and paste that three times to complete the outer ring, and then create new arcs for each additional round.
  • Because there are few things that frustrate me more than the Type on a Path tool, the labels from the 2nd round on are not laid out on circles. Instead I made a 32-sided polygon and rotated the labels to line (everything is by eye because I’m a lazy bum).
  • Appreciate the fact that each round brings half as many games!

Would I make one of these again next year? Yeah, maybe. The hard work is done and because everything is set up a Live Paint it wouldn’t be too time-consuming of a project. This type of radial bracket really lends itself to smaller tournaments, though, and I think NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball playoffs would work better than the massive NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket.