Every year the NCAA Division 1 championship – more commonly referred to as March Madness – attracts the attention of millions of basketball fans from around the world. The jam-packed three-week schedule sees the best college basketball teams from across the USA compete for the prestige of a national title, but also provides aspiring talents an opportunity to make their name on the biggest stage.
What is March Madness?
March Madness is an elimination tournament consisting of 68 teams. Of those 68, 32 gain entry automatically by winning their conference championship, while the others are picked by a selection committee based on their performance throughout the season.
The March Madness odds are constantly fluctuating as the bracket progresses, but pre-tournament odds have Houston as +550 favorites, followed by Kansas (+800), Alabama (+800), Purdue (+1100), and the competition’s most decorated outfit, UCLA (+1200).
The knockout-style tournament cuts the field in half each matchday and culminates in the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final 4, and ends with the championship game that crowns the national champion.
The Selection Committee's official rankings of the 2023 #MarchMadness field! 👀 pic.twitter.com/oPjuTDcf0J— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 12, 2023
The March Madness Bracket Challenge
One of the main reasons March Madness attracts so much attention is the popular bracket challenge, where fans attempt to predict the outcome of every game in the tournament. To date, nobody has successfully managed to do so, but that doesn’t stop millions of hopefuls from giving it a go every time March rolls around.
Around 45 million fans in the United States alone are believed to have taken part in a bracket challenge in 2022. With the odds around one in 9.2 quintillion to accurately predict every outcome, you could say it’s an impossible task. But businessman Warren Buffet remains confident someone can do it and offers employees of his company Berkshire Hathaway $1 million a year for the rest of their life if they manage it.
THE BRACKET 🙌#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/HZYnwD3s3x— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 12, 2023
History of the Challenge
We are approaching a decade since Buffet first challenged his employees to predict the outcome of every March Madness game in 2014. The prize was initially $1 billion but has since been altered to $1 million every year for life.
Sport is incredibly unpredictable and, as a result, the chance of anyone successfully completing a bracket is unlikely. Buffet has therefore pledged to award $100,000 to the employee that guesses the most correct outcomes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no fan has managed to complete a successful bracket. The closest is believed to have been achieved in 2019 when someone managed to predict the outcome of the first 49 games in a row. Gregg Nigl is the man responsible and managed to guess correctly all the way down to the Sweet 16. Assuming Nigl’s bracket did not include the ‘First Four’ – as many bracket challenges don’t – he still would have needed another 14 correct match predictions to finish with a perfect record.
The early stages of March Madness are far easier, as favorites often progress against lower-ranked teams. However, once the tournament enters the latter stages, the remaining colleges represent the best the country has to offer, and each could emerge victorious on any given day.
The March Madness bracket challenge really has captured the imagination of basketball fans across the globe. The odds of anyone actually completing it are astounding, but that doesn’t stop people from trying!
The NCAA Division 1 championships truly are an outlier on the world sporting stage. Rarely has so much hype been generated around an amateur competition. The tournament not only provides an entertaining viewing spectacle but also gives young players a chance to showcase their abilities to the world.