The old saying goes: If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. Such a saying must have been famous before March Madness forced the Lions of Penn State University to play the lambs of the University of North Carolina in the second round of a sixty-five team, single-elimination basketball tournament.The Nittany Lions devoured the lambs, or Tar Heels of North Carolina in that 2001 NCAA Tournament match-up, which is a perfect example of an underdog story that March provides college basketball fans with every year. Bad puns aside, the UNC Tar Heels are ranked number one in the country and are primed to make a run deep into March, while PSU is merely hoping to get invited to the big dance.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the only championship tournament where the NCAA does not keep the profits. Uniquely, the participating schools and conferences cash in on the huge profits. Half of the profited money goes directly to the conferences that do the best. Conferences are evaluated by the number of teams that participate, the number of wins they accumulate and the significance of victories. The other half of the money is divided up between the participating schools. The money goes directly to the schools based upon the amount of athletic scholarships given out.
Huge profits are made by the schools and conferences thanks to the multi-billion dollar television contract with media powerhouse CBS. In 1999, CBS signed a contract with the National Collegiate Athletic Association until 2010 worth $6 billion. This contract gives the NCAA more than $500 million a year to be split up among the different conferences and schools.
Sports betting also offers the promise of huge profits. The tournament’s unique single elimination system introduces the bracket pool.
These bracket pools are extremely competitive and websites including Yahoo, ESPN and CBS all offer grand prizes which vary from cash prizes to Caribbean cruises. Even the experts get surprised when a Cinderella story unfolds in March, and winning a bracket pool demands little knowledge and a lot of luck.
The bracket is separated into four smaller brackets. Each of the smaller bracket has sixteen teams that are ranked from best to worst. Each conference tournament winner is given an automatic bid to the big dance. The best of the rest are given at-large bids into the tournament. This field is decided by the NCAA Men’s College Basketball committee which is comprised of former coaches, sports analysts, athletic directors and conference chairpersons.
All four number one seeds made the Final Four last season for the first time in more than five years. The field will be set on Selection Sunday which is the third Sunday in March.
The North Carolina Tar Heels were voted the pre-season no.1 team in the country. Las Vegas is famous for sports betting, and the Tar Heels were given 3 1 odds to win the National Championship. Other top teams including Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Louisville were given 7 1 odds. If last season is any indication of success, these four schools can look forward to reaping the benefits.
If you want to reap the benefits of winning a bracket pool, there are a couple things that may help. Strategies change from person to person, but listening to the experts will spotlight key match-ups and the powerhouse teams. Choosing the expected winner will not always result in success. Davidson surprised many by winning their way into the fourth round as a 10 seed before losing to the eventual champion Kansas.
I am looking forward to filling out multiple brackets and hopefully winning some money. The odds are not on my side to win, but I still plan on watching as many games as I can and scribbling in North Carolina on the line that says National Champion. I would be happy to have those 3 to 1 odds offered by Las Vegas.
Eric Rinehimer can be reached at ER626593@wcupa.edu.