The March Madness Effect
This is an update from a previous article I wrote for Duke Report.
It's that time of year when hardcore college basketball fans as well as casual fans come together for the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is one of the most popular sporting events and unique in its own way.
Unlike college football, with still only a four team playoff, college basketball has arguably the most pure and fair form of a tournament in all of sports. The NCAA selection committee picks the top 68 teams to go dancing.
Also unlike college football - if you win your conference, you go to the NCAA Tournament.
Even if you don't win your tourney, if you play a tough schedule and pull off a lot of wins, you still go dancing. There is no perfect process to pick teams, but the NCAA tournament is as close as you can get.
Now that the bracket has been released, you will see people from all walks of life, gathering at the office water cooler or maybe even meeting in a group Zoom meeting to discuss strategies on picking their bracket.
You will have the person who spends hours and hours analyzing data such as college basketball conference standings, KenPom rankings, strength of schedules, as well as other data and statistics only to see his/her bracket get busted when a Cinderella pulls off an upset. You will also have that one person who makes picks based on team colors or mascots end up winning the office pool.
March Madness has a unique way of bringing together the hardcore and casual fan.
Once Thursday gets here, you will have fans watching games from everywhere and anywhere possible. Many will take off work the first two days of the NCAA Tourney to watch games at home, a local bar or chain restaurant like Buffalo Wild Wings that display multiple TV's. At certain times in the NCAA Tourney, you can have four games going at once.
You will also have many employees who don't take off work but instead watch the games at work by streaming through devices like their laptop, ipad, or iphone using the company wi-fi. This is why I have long argued that the first two days (not the First Four in Dayton) of the NCAA Tournament (Thursday and Friday) should be an optional holiday. You don't see events like the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff, World Series, and NBA Playoffs being played during normal working hours.
Employees spending time at work streaming games can have an economic impact on the workplace. A 2021 analysis report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas suggested " that between 23 million and 34.5 million workers would fill out brackets" for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The report also suggested the 2021 tournament could have possibly cost employers over $13 billion from their workforce.
According to the report.. "that would mean 72,114,720 workers are participating in March Madness activities while at work. Using this figure multiplied by the average hourly wage, the games could cost employers $2.16 billion per hour."
To see the full 2021 analysis report from Challenger, Gray, & Christmas click on the link below.
The above was from a 2021 analysis. One would think that with arenas and stadiums full again for the 2022 NCAA Tourney, that all those numbers and statistics will go up.
March Madness attracts several viewers to the NCAA Tournament games. Several years back, the NCAA and CBS Sports teamed up to offer the March Madness on Demand web streaming service. With the app, you now can watch games from your iPhone, and iPad to go along with watching games on your laptop and TV. With just owning a few basic technology items, one could turn their living room into a mini Buffalo Wild Wings, streaming all the games being played at the same time.
Check out the pic below from my 2019 March Madness Party to get an idea.
In 2006, the gurus at CBS Sports took it to a new level with the famous "BOSS" button. The BOSS button allows viewers to watch games at work but quickly be able to bring up a fake email, spreadsheet, flow chart, etc.. if somebody walks by their computer. CBS Sports reported a few years back there were 2.77 million clicks on the BOSS button.
Click on the link below to see a 2019 article from USA Today on the history of the BOSS button.
As you can see, March Madness has continued to embrace the use of technology.
Office pools are another popular event that goes along with March Madness. Billions of dollars will exchange hands the next few weeks as people from all walks of life will participate in office pools across the country. Filling out the bracket the Monday after Selection Sunday has become a pastime for many fans.
According to a 2018 USA Today article, the American Gaming Association estimated the following…
$10 billion The amount that will be wagered on this (2018) year’s tournament, only $300 million of which will be done legally at sports books in Las Vegas, according to the American Gaming Association.
With sports betting now legal in more than two dozen states ( I believe currently 28 states), one would think the amount of sports betting (legal with sports books as well as office pools) on the NCAA Tournament will surely increase.
Yahoo, ESPN and other sites offer up cash prizes for a perfect bracket. In 2014, Warren Buffett upped the ante by offering one billion dollars to the person who had a perfect bracket. Warren Buffett is no fool when it comes to investing money. His challenge brought even more attention to Yahoo Fantasy sports, as Yahoo and Quicken Loans partnered together to launch the billion dollar bracket challenge. The challenge opened to the first 15 million qualified entrants. By late Friday of the first round of games, out of the fifteen million brackets, none were left perfect. It didn’t help that Mercer upset Duke and Dayton beat Ohio State in the first round to shatter millions of brackets. As you can see, Warren Buffett placed a safe bet that ended up bringing a lot of hype to the bracket challenge and he didn’t have to give out a dollar.
Over the years Warren Buffet has then offered a bracket challenge to his employees in which they would receive one million every year for life to the employee that could pick a perfect Sweet 16. None of his employees have been able to do that. However, in 2017, one employee came very close correctly picking 31 out of the 32 games. He didn't win the one million a year for life, but did win $100,000 prize for having the best bracket.
Still trying to achieve the perfect bracket is always a challenge many fans dream of. Every year, I myself think, "yeah this is my year to finally produce the perfect bracket." Well, a quick Google search will give you the statistics of having a perfect bracket.
Here are the odds from a recent NCAA article:
“Jeffrey Bergen, a professor of mathematics at DePaul University, has been crunching numbers on the topic for years. And they don’t look good. Bergen says that the chances of someone filling out a perfect bracket is 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s one in more than nine quintillion. To put how large that number is into proper perspective, Bergen reports that if you were to begin filling out random brackets now and stacked each of the 9 quintillion pieces of paper on top of each other, the stack would reach all the way to the sun and back…over 3,000 times by the time you finished.”
You would have a better chance at winning the lottery than producing a perfect bracket.
As USA Today stated, “You’d have a better chance of hitting four holes-in-one in a single round of golf.”
Even with the odds NOT in your favor, fans across the country will come together at the water cooler starting Monday to discuss their strategies and why they think their bracket is going to be perfect this year.
The next 3 weeks, the March Madness Effect will be everywhere. Whether it be fans attending the games at different locations across the country, co-workers discussing the games over a lunch break, friends getting together at the local sports bar to cheer on their team, or living rooms being turned into temporary sports bars to display all the games, March Madness is truly a unique sporting event that all can enjoy.