Christmas, in March? For basketball fans, that statement could never be more true. March Madness is a month of big dreams for 64 teams competing and a time of bliss, hope and desire for its fans.
According to head men’s basketball coach Grant Hemmingsen, March Madness is something for everyone. “Everyone gets into it,” Hemmingsen said. “It doesn’t matter about age, sex. Everybody gets into it which is kind of fun.”
Fans of March Madness get involved in countless ways. Friends, work offices and anything in-between create pools and competitions for people to try to make as many correct predictions as they can. For many around the country, having as many right picks as possible in the end results in a cash prize, depending on the bracket. But for others, the end result may not be anything more than self-pride.
“This year I did a non-gambling March Madness App bracket with a bunch of basketball alumni,” Hemmingsen said. “Also, the football coach, Mistro, does the crazy eights. Pick eight teams and whatever their seed is, you get those points for the advancement.”
Throughout the country, millions of people have filled out brackets in hopes they can successfully predict the outcome of the tournament through strategy and analysis or just pure favorites.
According to assistant football coach Brian Mistro, who is in charge of the athletic department crazy eight’s game, wants to see the lower seeded teams win, in hopes to get the most points and win the crazy eight’s game.
For others, like junior Brodie Running, it is more analytical.
“I try to make smart picks, but there were some like Xavier who I really liked and had winning a few rounds. Luckily, that one turned out,” Running said. “I also choose Marquette to beat South Carolina in the first round, and now South Carolina is in the Final Four, so they can backfire on you.”
Hemmingsen takes a lot of things into consideration when making his picks.
“I follow certain teams and I have some familiarity of who they are. The coaches I like I usually favor in my picks,” Hemmingsen said. “It really depends on the year for me. This year I really went with powerhouses. Thirteens that were doing hot all year. We weren’t going to see very many upsets. And we didn’t.”
Despite trying to have a perfect bracket, fan favorites also seem to make it into everyone’s brackets.
“I am a huge Notre Dame fan so I always create a bracket that has them winning, mostly as a joke, but also for that off chance that they do pull it out I can say I had them all the way,” Running said.
The same can be said for Hemmingsen.
“Yeah Duke always goes farther,” Hemmingsen said. “If I do multiple brackets, which this year I only did one which was kind of weird for me, usually there is always one bracket with Duke, who wins the whole thing.”
While Hemmingsen and Running keep favorites close to the top, does Mistro take favorites into consideration?
“Absolutely not!” Mistro said. “Got to take the heart out of it.”
The first days of the tournament, there are multiple games going on at the same time, and for some, every minute counts.
“Our house set up four TVs in our living room, so when the first day of games started we had them all going,” Running said. “With our house being so close to campus there was a lot of people coming and going. Guys would come over, watch some games, run to classes, then come back.”
But no matter how much time one spends consumed in the madness, brackets still tend to end in a bust.
“My bracket right now is garbage. It is downright horrible,” Running said. “I chosealotoftheACCtodo well, and they didn’t. I had Notre Dame, Louisville, and Duke all making it to the Elite 8, and Duke winning it, but that didn’t happen. And with Villanova and Kansas losing when they did, my bracket has a lot of red X’s through it.”
Hemmingsen’s situation isn’t much different.
“Extremely busted, considering Duke was my pick, but I also had Kansas in my Final Four,” Hemmingsen said.
Even though Mistro didn’t fill out a bracket this year and doesn’t have to worry about a bust, but is just competing in the department crazy eight’s game, it’s still a fight to see who has the most points at the end.
“It’s just a fun game for us to have bragging rights over the other staff members,” Mistro said.
In the end, a busted bracket is all part of the emotional highs and lows of the month of March. It becomes a time for everyone to enjoy.
“People who never watch basketball let alone talk about it fill out brackets and pick teams to cheer for,” Running said. “I watch basketball all the time, yet I have a bracket that’s terrible, yet I know people who barely know the game that have way better brackets. You hear people talking about all over, people who really wouldn’t talk with each other any other time are now having conversations, so it has that ability to bring people together.”
According to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, not a single bracket entered has been a perfect bracket. This year, ESPN had the highest number of users and brackets entered: 5,547,770 users with 13,333,343 brackets entered. It’s madness, people.