Why The Madness?


It’s that time of year again. The NCAA Tournament is well under way and many Americans have dropped everything to focus on their brackets. As usual, this year has had and will have its fair share of upsets and comebacks. But why does this tournament get everyone so…mad? Basketball fans can list off a number of more esoteric reasons: This is a unique experience, some of these match-ups can only happen in the tournament and so on. But what’s in it for the many non-basketball fans who make brackets?

First, making brackets involves zero skill. Anyone can fill out a bracket. Yes, there are some people who sit down and analyze every factor and try to make educated decisions. But there are people who do just as well picking by mascot or colors or whether or not they like the school. Even people who have no idea how sports work can do well in their pool. Because no prior knowledge is required to compete, more people are willing to get invested. Anything is possible in the tournament (except maybe a #16 seed winning a game), so why not take a shot at a bracket?

Basketball is also the perfect sport for non-sports fans. It’s fast-paced and the rules are fairly simple to follow. In addition, the NCAA Tournament only lasts a little over two weeks, so it’s not a huge time commitment. You don’t have to be a huge basketball fan to enjoy the tournament. It’s easy to just sit down and cheer on whichever teams you have winning. For any other sport, a tournament like this might not draw as much of a crowd. Basketball just works.

The NCAA Tournament is also an excuse to spend time with family and friends. Everyone can gather around the TV with their brackets out in front of them, eating food and talking trash. Emotional highs and lows are often strengthened within a group. The thrill of picking an upset is even better when you can trash talk everyone who didn’t. On the flip side, losing your champion in the second game is a lot more painful with your friends and family there to ridicule you.

Most importantly, the tournament is about being right. It’s about making your picks and beating everyoneelse in your pool. Whether you’re competing against family, friends, coworkers, classmates or strangers, the satisfaction of being the only one to call an upset or the champion feels great. And, if you play for money, the cash at the end feels pretty good too. During these two weeks, the three words “I called it” are gold. While there’s a very good chance you’ll never have a perfect bracket, there’s always the chance you’ll be more right than anyone in your pool. And really, that’s all that matters. It’s too late to make brackets for this year’s tournament, but if you’ve never made a bracket before, maybe you should think about getting involved next year.


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