BasketballSportsThe Buzz

March Madness: Explanation and Anticipation

The March Madness tournament attracts attention nationwide, including here at St. Ambrose University (SAU). Before it begins, many will create brackets to predict the winning team. 

Among student-athletes and coaches who follow basketball on campus, some pay more attention leading up to the tournament than others. Some focus on specific teams or conferences. 

You might wonder why over 56 million people fill out brackets during this time and why they do it. Statista Research Department reports in 2023, “These brackets are sometimes filled out for fun among friends, or more competitively to win money or prizes offered by various betting companies and organizations.” 

Senior basketball player Ty Slager told the Buzz, “I at least make a couple brackets, one with my family and one with my friends.” 

But if you don’t follow college basketball or the March Madness tournament and are unfamiliar with brackets, here is an explanation: Daniel Wilco (2022) of the NCAA explains it as, “The NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments both start with a bracket of 64 teams. Before the games begin, you can try your hand at predicting the winner for each one of the 63 games. Your methodology is entirely up to you, whether that’s taking a deep dive into the statistics, flipping a coin, or having your dog make picks for you. … As the games progress, you’ll get points for every winner you picked correctly. Those points increase every round (games in the second round are worth twice as much as games in the first round, and so on). At the end of the tournament, the player in each group with the most points wins that group.” 

SAU Sophomore and avid basketball watcher Gina Tinerella explains her philosophy on how she fills out her brackets.

“I tend to make at least two brackets per side. One that I kinda do at the beginning of it and then I do more research into the games and who is actually favored to win and stuff like that. Then I will make a more legit second bracket for both sides. I think it’s fun having a bracket in general to keep track of if you got your predictions right of who’s going to win the games and just helps you focus more on the tournament as a whole,” Tinerella detailed. 

But for some people, it’s not just about the brackets, it’s about the teams who are playing in the tournament. 

Slager has his favorites, “I pay attention to big teams, or whoever I like that year.” 

And there are also people like assistant men’s basketball coach Lee Hardrick, who don’t always watch the full tournament or always make a bracket.

Hardrick told the Buzz, “[I] usually [pay attention to March Madness] around the Sweet 16 but March Madness has been in my life since [I was] about 7-8 years old.

“I pay [an] equal amount of attention [to both sides] because I just love basketball[,] so I watch everything.”

But this isn’t the case for everyone. There are people like Tinerella, who say, “I pay a lot more attention to the women’s side because I feel like it’s way more interesting. There is really no true underdog in the women’s side, anyone can win at any given moment.”

But it doesn’t just begin in March for Tinerella. She says, “I pay a lot of attention to the March Madness tournament and my attention to it starts at the beginning of the men’s and women’s seasons. I would say that I have watched a lot more women’s regular season basketball games just because of the Iowa games and just how competitive in different scale the women’s talent has gone up in the past couple of years. … I like to keep up with the AP Top 25 polls [because] I really like watching to see [where] the teams fall after every week.” 

For someone like Tinerella it is super important, especially once it comes to the tournament. Although Tinerella loves watching the women’s side more, she also says, “I pay more attention to the women, but I do equally love watching the men’s games.”

Given the size of the March Madness tournament, you might wonder why it holds such a for SAU. Fans point to the connection between SAU and the head coach of the University of Iowa’s women’s basketball. Before becoming head coach for the Hawkeyes, Coach Lisa Bluder coached the SAU women’s basketball team between 1984 and 1990 before heading to Drake University

According to Eric Mullin (2024), “The March Madness action kicks off a few days after selection Sunday, with the men’s First Four from March 19-20 and the women’s First Four from March 20-21.”