Each year as the winter months fade and the weather grows warmer, we find ourselves in the midst of madness: March Madness, that is. For many sports fans the latter half of winter can feel like a drag as the NFL has wrapped up in early February and baseball won’t start until early April. Within that two-month gap, however, many fans find solace in the hype of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. While there are certainly a number of college basketball fans who faithfully watch their teams for the entirety of the regular season, the NCAA Tournament attracts millions of viewers. In 2015 over 33 million people tuned in to watch Duke defeat Wisconsin for the championship. Though only about 11 million viewers tuned in for the 2016 championship, the Philadelphia area was given a lot to celebrate when Villanova defeated North Carolina with a buzzer beater.
We fill out brackets for amusement and money, and we enter tournaments of our own with coworkers, friends and even online communities. We compete against one another just as much as the NCAA athletes compete for the championship title. But why do so many people go gaga for college basketball for one month out of the year? What is it about March Madness that makes it so exciting?
It’s unpredictable. No matter how much research and statistical analysis we do to prepare our brackets, we can never fully predict the outcome of the tournament. Though we dream of creating a perfect bracket, mathematicians show us that the odds of such perfection are microscopically slim. In 2015 Forbes released an article stating that the odds of making a perfect bracket were one in 9.2 quintillion. Professor Jeff Bergen of DePaul University, however, calculates that our odds are much better: one in 128 billion. And though the seeding assigned by the NCAA may be a place to start, we must always be on guard for upsets. The greatest upset of 2016 came when no. 15, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, defeated no. 2, Michigan State.
We get to watch stars-in-the-making. Before Earvin “Magic” Johnson became a Lakers legend, he led Michigan State to the Elite Eight in 1978. In 1979 Johnson took the Spartans to the Finals, where he faced Larry Bird of Indiana State, earning Johnson the title of Most Outstanding Player. Before Steph Curry became the first NBA player to receive unanimous MVP recognition in the 2015-16 season, he was playing for Davidson College. In his sophomore season he helped the Wildcats earn their first NCAA tournament win since 1969, climbing the ranks to play Kansas, the eventual champion, in the Elite Eight.
There’s always something to watch. Beginning on Tuesday, March 14 and ending with the championship game on April 3, there will be a total of 67 games of basketball played. March Madness provides us plenty of opportunities to gather with friends and socialize. We can meet up with friends at sports bars or stream the games online while trying to write essays.
Basketball gives us instant gratification. Not only are there games upon games during the month of March, but the game of basketball itself is so fast-paced and energetic that you can’t help but love it. With constant scoring and nonstop back-and-forth play, basketball always gives fans something to cheer about. Each minute of the NCAA Tournament is an emotional roller coaster that is bound to thrill us at some point.
Sources: CBS Sports, ESPN, Forbes, NCAA.com