It’s that time of year again: as the American sporting world prepares for a frenzied marathon of Basketball, we at Seoulbeats prepare for a frenzy of another kind, where we pit idol against idol in a fight for poll glory in Seoulbeats March Madness!

This year, we’ve gone for a fusion of previous brackets: we are continuing last year’s theme of next generation idols by considering those who debuted in 2012 or later, while also returning to our roots with the categories of rap, dance, visual and vocal.

Take a peek at our bracket, courtesy of Lorenza and Chelsea, and share your thoughts on: What are some potentially intriguing matchups to watch out for? Which underdog is most likely to pull off a surprising upset? Who are the clear favorites to win the whole thing? Who are you putting your money on?

Qing: We have arrived at Lo’s favourite time of the year, ha.

This time, we’ve got a number of new faces, like the I.O.I girls. Their releases didn’t really stand out for me, but Produce 101 definitely had—still has—a huge following, so it’ll be interesting to see how the girls fare, especially Sejeong, Somi, and Yoojung.

I’m particularly curious about how the Suhyun-Sejeong matchup will go. March Madness is a lot about public recognition, but considering how Ailee and Solar made it to the finals last year over the trend-dols, I’d say skills do play a large factor too. I don’t know how Suhyun and Sejeong match up in terms of vocal skills, but Suhyun has the benefit of having released a lot more songs than Sejeong, while the latter has just one solo under her belt.

Under female rap, I think it may end in a showdown between Heize and Hwasa. Kisum has been doing well, but Heize gained traction with “Star” and her OST for Goblin. Neither are heavily rap-focused, but she’s getting recognition. For the boys, it’s hard to tell, but I’m definitely rooting for Rap Monster. On the BTS note, now that we’re back to categories instead of going by year of debut, I don’t know if Jungkook can pull ahead as he did last year. But one can always hope.


I hate things like this because I suck at them. Anything match-upy or predict-y; I just get wrong. Over the past few years of SB March Madness, I’ve had something like a 12% success rate at best. So this year, I’m not even gonna try. My pick for the winner is Jaejoong, now fork over the popcorn so I can watch the carnage in peace.

And of that carnage, I’m most interested in seeing the Pretty Young Things go up against the Been Here, Done That; ie Hani vs Tzuyu, or Jackson vs Rocky. Will the new and shiny beat out the older and established? I have no idea, I’m just here for the fanwars.

Margaret: I agree with what you said, Lo, about the newer groups going up against the more experienced ones. Personally, I’m rooting for a lot of veteran idols, mostly because those are the groups that I’m into these days (haven’t really been paying attention to the younger idols, whoops). However, nine times out of ten, the results are the exact opposite of what I predict or support, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

I’m more familiar with male idols and groups, so I’ll be commenting on those categories.

For male vocals, I’m putting all my money on Chen — he promoted hard last year with both Exo and Exo-CBX, and he’s already gotten put out an OST and an SM Station track release this year. He definitely has the skills and the public recognition to back him up, and there are very few — if any — male artists on that list that come even close to him.

In terms of male dance, quite of few of the nominees like Ten, Shownu, and Rocky, have been on Hit the Stage, so it’ll definitely be fascinating to see whether their popularity of the show translates to their victories here. I am particularly conflicted over the Ten versus N battle. Both are extremely talented, but they each have their own style of dancing: whereas Ten is sharper with his moves, N is a more fluid dancer. That being said, I’m very loyal to my VIXX bias, so I’ll be rooting for him!

The category that I’m most curious about is the Visuals category. The nominees are all very, very attractive in their own right, so it may very well be a personal preference thing (let’s go, Jinyoung!).

These are some very difficult choices.

Mark: My favorite part of March Madness is anticipating the exciting matchups between idols who share the same niche. Whether it’s Bobby vs. Mino or Ailee vs. Solar, we’re bound to get high profile matchups as the competition progresses. However, the matchup I’m looking forward to the most this year is Somi vs. Tzuyu, which has a high likelihood of occurring in the second round. It’s always interesting to compare Somi with a member of Twice but it’s even more contentious when comparing her to Tzuyu. They’re basically the same type of idol and even self proclaimed friends. It’s arguable who has the most popularity at the moment but isn’t that the reason we do March Madness? Because there’s only one way to find out!

As for upsets, the region with the biggest upset alerts is Male Vocals. We saw Woozi and Jae pull off surprising upsets in last year’s competition and I hope one of them can surprise us this year by knocking off Chen. In addition, Dean is a sneaky pick in the fifth seed because this is his first year in the competition so there’s really no metrics out on him yet. For female idols, the most contentious category is definitely Rap. Yezi and LE are the favorites to advance but don’t be surprised if they face a strong challenge from Hwasa. Kisum, Heize, and Jennie are dark horse candidates to watch out for being that it’s their first year in the competition,

Lastly, would anyone be surprised if Ailee won for the second year in a row? She’s only getting more likeable with time and I don’t see anyone who can stop her. I have her snatching the wigs of Solar, Jungkook, and Momo on her way to the crown. #TeamAilee

Gaya: No lie, I am really looking forward to the Bobby-B.I matchup. I think Bobby, for a variety of reasons, will lose out on some non-fan support, but I don’t know which way iKon fans themselves will go. I will be voting for B.I because I am certified Han-bin trash.

It will be interesting to see how far last year’s winner, and the first lady to do so, Ailee will go. I want to say that she will take out the vocal category at least, but with Sejeong in the mix, I’m not so sure anymore. Then there’s the male vocal category: Chen may be top seed, but I also have my eyes on Dean.

Whatever happens, I would love for another lady to win and when push comes to shove — also known as the Elite Eight round — I’ll be voting for the fairer sex.

Leesha: This is my first year participating so I’m just looking forward to this playing out more than making predictions. I’ll try my hand at a few predictions and then join Lo for popcorn eating and comment watching.

The rap categories are looking especially exciting. That B.I vs Bobby side is what I’m looking forward to seeing the end of. I mean, YG’s newest golden children head to head, plus splitting the fandom? Let the madness ensue. I’m feeling personally conflicted with that male category as my ultimate bias Bang Yongguk is on there and while my heart is like, “Yes, I must make him win,” my head is like, “No girl, vote for the best not just your favorite.”

The female rap category looks like a mixed bag of Unpretty Rapstar contestants with Hwasa and Jennie in there just to mix it up. I’m pretty sure Jennie will take that as BlackPink fans seem to be everywhere, but Yezi vs Grace is going to be killer. Grace is underrated but her releases are crazy catchy. Yezi has shown that she can pull out amazing raps as well, especially her “Crazy Dog” rap on UR. I’m calling Rap Monster vs B.I and Yezi vs LE, but can’t say beyond that.

I’m also eyeing that Kai vs B.M in the male dance category because while Kai has the track record, I’ve seen that B.M practice video (thanks Cjontai) and uh…let’s just say I know where my votes are going.

Finally, Dean wins everything for me because he’s Dean, he’s had some spectacular showings, and again, he’s Dean. That is all.

Sarah: Last year I tried to guess at who would come out on top, and failed miserably, so along with Leesha and Lo I will be mostly snacking on the popcorn and watching the fireworks.

However, there are a couple match-ups that I think will be very interesting. Of course, Ailee took the championship last year, but I can see Solar holding her own in the Vocals category. A final match-up between Solar and Chen would be my cup of tea. Chen definitely has the recognition power behind him after this last year of never-ending promotions (though I’d hate to see Dean kicked out so early). If Hani or Tzuyu makes it through the Visuals category to go up against Solar in the final four, now that would be fascinating.

I would love to see an all female final four, and it would be possible in all but the Dance category. Those rookies (B.M., Rocky, and Ten) are going to be hard to beat this year. At least we have the advantage of Unpretty Rapstar in the traditionally masculine Rap Category, all the ladies there are quite strong.

Ultimately, it seems like a particularly even playing field this year, so it’s anyone’s guess. I’ll be voting for Ren.

What about you readers? Have you already cast your picks in? Which match ups are you excited for? Sound out below!

(Images via YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment, BigHit Entertainment, Banana Culture, Jellyfish Entertainment, Loen Entertainment)