by Jake Peter
NCAA March Madness tipped off on Tuesday, March 15 with the “First Four” games. With one of the most wide-open playing fields in recent memory, anyone has a shot to take home the title this year. The field of 64 began their games on Thursday, the day that all March Madness brackets were officially locked in.
It’s never been more difficult to make an accurate bracket, let alone be the first person in the history of the sport to pick all 63 games correctly. There are over nine quintillion combinations one could choose when filling out their bracket, so just getting the majority of the games right is an impressive accomplishment. Regardless of their odds of winning, approximately 40 million people fill out 70 million brackets both online and on paper in hopes of winning bragging rights and even cash prizes in some cases.
The “Big Dance” stretches all the way until April 4, so there’s plenty of time for those in the workforce as well as students to neglect their work and watch basketball. In a recent report done by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., the total loss of productivity from time spent filling out brackets and watching live tournament games could reach $4 billion this year.
Most people in the workforce join office pools, and millions sign up to compete on websites like espn.com and ncaa.com in the hopes of taking home larger prizes like basketball-themed trips or thousands of dollars. The average wager per bracket will reach $29 this year. However, these bracket pools and viewing parties can boost camaraderie and moral for employees and students, while restricting them from watching the action can have the opposite effect.
Some of the usual teams featured in March Madness like Louisville and SMU were restricted from entering the tournament due to NCAA violations, even though they had more than sufficient records. New clubs like Yale, Arkansas-Little Rock, Holy Cross, and UNC Wilmington are making their first appearances in years this March. On Thursday, Yale made history when they upset #5 seed Baylor to earn their first March Madness victory in their team’s history.
March Madness always seems to fill the conversations this time of year, and it provides a welcome distraction. The Madness isn’t necessarily the upsets that take place in the tournament, but the frenzy of the fans over their favorite teams and brackets too. This tournament injects excitement into a relatively quiet time of the year for sports and gives people something to relate to and rally around in good fun.