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The March Madness Effect

It’s that time of year when hardcore college basketball fans as well as casual fans come together for the NCAA Tournament known as March Madness. March Madness is one of the most popular sporting events and unique in its own way.

Unlike college football, with 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 are teams left on the bubble that get left out. However, if you are a bubble team, then consider yourself lucky if you are chosen to go dancing. There is no perfect process to pick teams, but the NCAA Tourney is as close as you can get.

Now that the bracket’s been released, you will see people from all walks of life gathering at the office water cooler 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, rankings, and Strength of Schedules only to see his/her bracket get busted when a Cinderella pulls off an upset. You will also have the 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. You have the guy who will take off work the first two days of the NCAA Tourney to watch the games at home or a place like Buffalo Wild Wings that displays multiple TVs. At certain times in the NCAA Tourney, you can have four games going on at once.

You will also have many employees who don’t take off work but instead watch the games at work by streaming them 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 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 work hours.

Employees spending time at work streaming games can have an economic impact on the work place. The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducted a study in 2014 and came up with the following results:

“With an estimated 50 million Americans participating in March Madness office pools, companies stand to lose at least $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament.”

“A 2009 Microsoft survey estimated that 50 million Americans will participate in March Madness office pools.”

The above statistics are from a few years ago. A 2018 article from USA Today stated the following…

$2.3 billion
The amount of money in lost productivity due to March Madness, according to outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

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 March Madness Party last year 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.

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.

In that same 2018 USA Today article, the American Gaming Association estimated the following…

$10 billion
The amount that will be wagered on this year’s tournament, only $300 million of which will be done legally at sports books in Las Vegas, according to the American Gaming Association.

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.

The last three years Warren Buffet has 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 first 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 produce 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 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 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.
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You can follow Freddie on Twitter @Skeelow22.