March Madness takes over the world (for three weeks)


Statistics highlight the absurdly small odds of creating a perfect bracket.

By Jackson Janes

Upsets. Buzzer-beaters. “Cinderella” stories. Incredible come-from-behind wins. With over 97 million television viewers each year, March Madness provides it all, creating a national phenomenon that takes over the lives of millions for just a few short weeks.

Walking down the halls on a Thursday afternoon in mid-March, the likelihood of looking into a classroom and seeing students with their eyes glued to their phones or crowded around a single Chromebook is pretty high. It seems to be official: March Madness has infiltrated and taken over the school.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, colloquially known as March Madness, is an annual 68 team tournament that follows the regular season and conference tournaments. According to the NCAA, the 32 Division I conferences each receive an automatic bid, with the winner of each postseason conference tournament awarded a spot. The remaining 36 spots are called “at-large bids,” given to the “best” 36 teams that did not win their respective conferences.

According to the NCAA, the term “March Madness” was first used by an Illinois high school official named Henry V. Porter in 1939. The name stuck after CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger used it during a broadcast in 1982.

“Madness” truly sums up the tournament each year, as low-ranked, unheard-of teams often cause chaos by knocking off elite teams in the early rounds of the competition.

Cade Pinalto, Div. 977, explained how the unpredictability of the tournament is what makes it so special.

I love that anything can happen and the players leave it all on the court,” Pinalto said. “Upsets are unforeseen yet expected. It is all a matter of who and when.”

Declan Toomey, Div. 161, highlighted how all 68 teams have a good chance at winning the entire tournament.

“Any team has a shot at winning the tournament,” Toomey said. “Even though everyone picks the big, well known teams, smaller schools still have a shot at winning it all.”

Creating brackets is a staple of the tournament, with fans selecting the winners of 63 matchups between teams seeded 1 through 16 in four respective regions, ultimately choosing one winner. According to ESPN, 36.1 percent of participants chose the Duke Blue Devils, the first overall seed in the tournament, as this year’s victors.

While approximately 70 million people made a bracket in 2017, according to data from Bleacher Report, no one has ever predicted all 63 games correctly. In fact, according to Duke math professor Jonathan Mattingly, the odds of creating a perfect bracket are nearly one in 9.2 quintillion.

Even with these extremely unfavorable odds, a survey conducted by The Warrior found that 43.6 percent of Lane students believe that a perfect bracket will eventually be created.

Justin Owens, Div. 057, believes that, although the chances are small, a perfect bracket will happen eventually.

“While the chance of it happening is little to none, I believe that as people continue to analyze college basketball, and a lot of luck occurs, it is bound to happen,” Owens said.

According to an article regarding picks for “casual” fans published by CBS Sports, mascots, higher seeds and color schemes should all be briefly considered when making picks.

Based on the survey conducted by The Warrior, 30.9 percent of respondents admitted that they make picks based on schools that they’ve heard of, while 40 percent of respondents said that seeding and overall record play important roles when making a bracket.

Though the competition of creating the “best” bracket has become a tradition among friends, seeing one’s favorite teams compete and advance adds another fun element to the tournament.

Theodore Gary, Div. 260, recalled his euphoria when his favorite team returned to the tournament last year.

I remember my favorite team, Auburn, made the tournament for the first time in my life last year,” Gary said. “It was truly great finally getting to watch them play, and win a game [in the March Madness tournament] for the first time this century.”

Elias Sharshar, Div. 979, recounted the impressive, unexpected runs of local teams, which he said are the most fun to watch.

The amazing Loyola and Northwestern runs each in the previous two years were fun,” Sharshar said. “It is cool seeing local teams do well.”

While the tournament often results in the shredding and burning of “busted” brackets on the first day, it always provides entertainment for fans across the country and across the world. With this year’s tournament, only one thing is guaranteed: uncertainty.