The ABCs of College Basketball’s March Madness

So, your American co-workers have undoubtedly been talking about the college basketball tournament and their brackets.  For some of you, this will be a new conversation.  Both men’s and women’s teams compete in this annual event.  I will focus my comments here on the men’s side of the sport. This past weekend, American television was overflowing with basketball games.  At work on Monday morning, conversations definitely included discussion of who won, who lost, and how everyone did in their predictions following two rounds of play. To help you understand better, we outline the ABCs of this time of year known as March Madness.

 (photo source: Wikipedia)

(photo source: Wikipedia)

A is for Americana.  The annual basketball tournament captures the attention of fans and casual fans across the entire United States.  A is also for alliteration (using the same first letters).  Anything worth selling is worthy of catchy names.  Winners of the rounds of 64 and 32 advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  From there, game winners can join the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and the Top Two.  Of course, March Madness is also an alliteration.

B is for brackets.  There are six full rounds of games played over the course of three weeks.  Losers go home; winners advance to the next round.  It’s dramatic and emotional. B is also for betting.  Many work groups organize betting pools where each worker chooses his or her winners.  Typical bets are between $5-20 but occasionally go higher.  B is also for bracket busters.  As you look at the chart below, you will notice many of the teams were predicted to be in the top four of their regional grouping; consequently, there are teams with a ranking of 1, 2, 3, or 4.  However, there are also teams picked 9th, 12th, 13th, and 15th.  Because most people in the betting pools selected the favorites, these underdogs* busted many brackets.   Teams like Oregon and LaSalle were not popular picks in the betting pools.  And this year’s Cinderella (team that no one expected to be invited to the big dance) is the team from Florida Gulf Coast University, the first-ever #15 seed** to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

 "Sparty" is the Spartan mascot from Michigan State University (photo source: msu.edu).

"Sparty" is the Spartan mascot from Michigan State University (photo source: msu.edu).

 Jayhawk mascot from the University of Kansas (photo source: about.com)

Jayhawk mascot from the University of Kansas (photo source: about.com)

C is for collegiate.  College sports are always less predictable than professional sports.  This is because the participants are 18-22 years old, have less-developed skill sets, and can fluctuate from sublime self-confidence to complete psychological collapse.  This makes betting on the sport wildly uncertain, as noted in the bracket discussion above. C is also for craziness.  Fans of the college game are wildly passionate, mostly because students of college age have maximum enthusiasm and energy.  The tournament is also crazy because of the sheer number of games played in a short amount of time, especially the first weekend.

If you want to be included in the conversation, just ask someone, “How did your brackets do?”  Then, just sit back and listen to the stories.

 The 16 men's teams left in this year's tournament

The 16 men's teams left in this year's tournament

The match-ups above represent the teams in the coming weekend of play.  If you were not able to join the betting pool for the first weekend, see if you can convince your co-workers to start a fresh pool for the final two weeks.  You can call it a do-over or second-chance pool.  There will be support for this idea among the poor fans who predicted that #2 Georgetown or #1 Gonzaga would win the entire tournament.

A note on Mascots: Most of the team mascots are represented by the world of animals or people.  This year’s field of 16 includes mascots as follows. People: Hoosiers, Explorers, Spartans, Blue Devils, Shockers Birds: Eagles (2), Cardinals, Ducks, Jayhawks Animals: Wildcats, Gators, Wolverines Forces of nature: Hurricanes Colors: Orange Nuts: Buckeyes

Read more here.

*Underdogs are teams which no one predicts to win.  This article is about being an underdog.  It says “Florida Gulf Coast Crashes Sweet Sixteen.”  The expression “to crash a party” means to attend a party where you were not expected or invited. **To seed means to arrange the drawing for positions in a tournament so that the more skilled teams meet in the later rounds.