With Selection Sunday less than a month away, fans everywhere are getting ready for one of the most watched sports tournaments in the world: March Madness. With 68 teams playing in 67 games in 15 cities nationwide over a span of three weeks, this year’s NCAA college basketball tournament is sure to attract millions of viewers, with even more filling out brackets.
In 2019 alone, over 170 million brackets were made worldwide, with over $10 billion wagered, yet not a single bracket ended up predicting every game correctly. Don’t expect to see any perfect brackets this year either, as according to Forbes Magazine, there is only a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance that someone could correctly pick the winner of every game in the 68-team NCAA tournament.
Whether you pick based on which mascot looks the coolest or spend hours studying every single team in the tournament, it’s still very, very unlikely that you could predict every game correctly. According to a study done by the University of Duke, there’s a better chance you flip a coin and get heads 50 times in a row, get struck by lightning three times in a single year, or guess a nine-character password on the first try than predicting a perfect bracket. But the crazy upsets and ruined brackets are what make March Madness, madness, right?
According to CBS, the corporation that broadcasts all of the NCAA tournament games over several networks, an average of more than 15 million people watched each game in the 2019 tournament, a number that is sure to grow thanks to a season that’s yielded lots of controversy. From Michigan State’s fall from number one overall to unranked in less than a month, Memphis freshmen star forward James Wiseman being suspended, to the FBI investigations of multiple high-profile universities, this year has been filled with lots of chaos. Fans everywhere can’t wait to see how the season will end, in hopes that their bracket will win them bragging rights or even better, money.
Sophomore John Graham is someone who participates in the events surrounding March Madness. “I was making brackets before I was potty trained. March Madness is like an extended Christmas to me,” he said.
With years of experience under his belt, one might think that Graham would have won multiple bracket titles by now.
“I’ve never won a bracket group. I usually bet on my favorite teams, like Wisconsin and Notre Dame, but they’ve never gotten me very far. I sometimes pick which mascot would win in a fight and take them all the way to the championship,” Graham articulated. “I actually placed last in my bracket last year. I chose Wisconsin to win it all, and they got upset in the first round to Oregon. I was pretty angry,” he stated.
Despite his lack of success, Graham still spends lots of time watching games.
“I usually take one or two days off at the beginning of the tournament to watch the first round of games. I put up every game on four or five screens and watch them all at once. It isn’t really just a game to me; it’s more like a lifestyle,” he claimed.
Graham hopes to claim the top spot in one of his many bracket groups, which will formally get started after this year’s tournament field is revealed on Selection Sunday on March 15.
While many people like Graham take their brackets very seriously, others make casual brackets just for the fun of it. One of these people is senior Geneva Gomez, who doesn’t follow college basketball until March comes around. In an interview, Gomez claimed, “I pick teams based on their names. If they have a cool name, like Gonzaga, that’s who I take to go the farthest.” This worked pretty well for her last year, as Gonzaga made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
However, this is a somewhat new thing for Gomez, as she’s only been making brackets since seventh grade. “I only started making brackets because our math teacher made us do it. I’ve just done it every year since then,” she said.
Despite not knowing much about March Madness, Gomez still enjoys all the things that come along with it: “I usually follow all the games on my phone. If you have a TV provider, you can watch all the games for free on the March Madness app,” Gomez explained. “I don’t bet money on the games, but it’s fun to see your bracket beat out all of your friends’ brackets, even when they know a lot more than you do.”
As the tournament is coming soon, here’s one fan’s take on what to watch for:
The ACC is having a down year: With only three ranked teams as of week 15, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is not living up to its preseason expectations. At the end of last year’s regular season, the ACC claimed eight of the top 25 spots in the Associated Press rankings. Those rankings included teams such as North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech and others. This year, Duke has suffered a few bad losses, which include a 20-point beat-down against North Carolina State and a 12-point overtime loss to a sub-par Wake Forest team. The University of North Carolina has only won four conference games, one of their worst records of the past two decades. Don’t be surprised if the ACC sends only a few teams to the tournament.
The Big Ten is very, very inconsistent: The Big Ten started out the season with four teams in the preseason top 25, including No. 1-ranked Michigan State. Since then, three of those teams have fallen entirely out of the rankings. A team that everyone did not expect to succeed was Penn State. Penn State had low hopes for this season but have since jumped to a season-high ninth overall in the AP top 25 rankings as of week 15. The Universities of Illinois and Iowa have both moved in and out of the rankings, with the latter having the better current ranking. Be ready to see a wild finish by the end of conference play.
Kansas is the best team in the country… when healthy (or eligible): This Jayhawks squad has two legitimate All-American candidates in Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike. Dotson has been one of the best point guards in the country despite going through a prolonged shooting slump (27 percent from three this year). Azubuike is practically unguardable when near the hoop, utilizing his seven-foot, 300-pound frame to propel himself to a country-wide number one field-goal percentage, at 77 percent. He had a career game against the Baylor Bears in Waco, recording 23 points and 19 rebounds. However, the Jayhawks lost two players to suspension thanks to a January brawl during a game against rival Kansas State, and almost every player in the starting lineup has dealt with some minor injury. There’s only two things standing between Kansas and a national championship: Baylor and injuries. If this Kansas squad can stay healthy, they can be very, very dangerous.
Dayton is criminally underrated and may have a legitimate chance to win March Madness: With the highest scoring offense in the country, which includes a number-one ranking in field-goal percentage and three-point percentage, the Flyers have cruised to a 25-2 record so far this season, with their only losses coming at the hands of the University of Kansas and Colorado at Boulder. This surplus of wins may be thanks to 6’9” sophomore forward Obi Toppin. Toppin might be the most dominant player in the country, averaging over 20 points and eight rebounds per game. A future NBA star, Toppin has carried this Dayton squad to a No. 4 ranking in the AP top 25 poll. If this team is at the top of their game, which they often are, they’re practically unbeatable.