Huge arenas, crazy student sections, loyal alumni, lovers of the game, energetic cheerleaders, devoted bands, defiant referees, passionate coaches, and the blood, sweat, and tears of some of the most talented college athletes in the world.
From emphatic dunks to buzzer beaters, college basketball rises to new heights and relevance once March rolls around, as the 68-team, single-elimination tournament that caps off the season always seems to stun the world.
The first ever NCAA basketball championship tournament took place in 1939. However, the term “March Madness” was not used back then for this tournament. It didn’t become the well-known term it is today until 1982, when prominent sports announcer Brent Musberger dubbed the tournament “March Madness”. By 1988, the NCAA had trademarked the term for the college basketball tournament.
March Madness caught fire immediately. In 1992, over 34 million people tuned in to watch the final game of the tournament between Duke and Michigan. In 2011, CBS signed a deal to pay about $771 million per year (through 2024) for TV rights to the tournament. To put things in perspective, back in 1982, CBS signed a deal to pay $39 million per year (through 1985) in present day value.
With the popularity of March Madness steadily increasing since then, more people began to join NCAA March Madness bracket pools. Participants fill out a bracket, predicting the outcomes of every game in the tournament, and bet money that their bracket will be the most accurate in the pool.
According to WalletHub’s website, in 2015, an estimated $9 billion was wagered on brackets, with an estimated 70 million brackets created by Americans. In comparison, Barack Obama only received about 66 million votes in the 2012 election.
The odds of predicting a perfect bracket are as low as 9.2 quintillion to one, and as high as 128 billion to one. Meanwhile, the odds of the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl next year are 225 to one, the odds of any Kanye West winning the 2020 presidential election are 100 to one, and the odds of being struck by lightning in a lifetime are 3,000 to one.
A perfect bracket is so unlikely that Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to anyone who created a perfect bracket in 2014. According to NCAA’s website, the longest any 2015 online bracket went without getting a game wrong was 25 games. That bracket was only 38 games away from getting all 63 games right. No one has ever had a verified perfect bracket.
Every team is on upset alert in March. This year, the 68-team field will be announced on March 12, and the madness will begin on March 16, ultimately finishing with the National Championship on April 3 in Phoenix, Arizona.
I am hoping Michigan somehow finds a way to get into the tournament, but right now it’s not looking so good. To me, there aren’t any amazing teams this year that are clear favorites to win it all.
If I were to make a mid-February prediction, I would predict that Kansas wins it all. Kansas may not be the most talented, but experience and maturity goes a long way in March, and between Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham, the Kansas backcourt has quite the experience.