The NCAA tournament kicks off today after another exciting College Basketball season. The last two days have been play-in games, where low-ranked conference champions vie for a spot in the tourney. On Tuesday, Hampton beat Manhattan in a good game. Then in an incredibly exciting game, Ole Miss came back from a 17-point deficit to beat BYU. On Wednesday, Robert Morris came back from behind to knock off Florida. Then in the nightcap it was another thriller when Dayton beat Boise State in a game that came down to the final shot. The play-in games are always in Dayton, which gave them a home court advantage.
March Madness, which deserves the name with the amount of exciting games, is a basketball junkie’s nirvana. It’s such a big deal that President Obama takes time to fill out a bracket every year, something I think he undeservedly gets too much heat for. Weeks of the top basketball teams play their best for the national championship. It doesn’t get any better. There are always a couple lower-seeded teams that knock off a top power school and become darlings of the tournament. Almost every year there is a Cinderella mid-major team that will go on a long run in the tournament, sometimes all the way to the final. It is truly a great time to be a basketball fan, trust me, I know from vast experience.
March Madness is always a great time to make some money too. Industry estimates are that $90-$100 million are legally gambled every tournament and that the number could even be as high as $227 million. However, lots and lots of money is available illegally. Bracket pools run in offices or among groups of friends are not usually worth more than a couple hundred to one thousand bucks, but 23 years ago a nationwide FBI estimate put that number at $2.5 billion and that number has likely grown. Pregame.com, a website that analyzes world news, estimates that $12 billion worldwide, legally and illegally, was at stake during last year’s tournament. Yes, technically Bracket Pools are illegal. Right now the only state where sports betting is legal is Nevada. I like to compare it to jaywalking; everybody does it and as long as you don’t egregiously partake in it in an authority’s face, they’re not going to do anything about it. To date, no one has ever been prosecuted for friendly office pools; key word being friendly. But gambling money isn’t the only money at stake. A report last year by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says, “The cost to American industry will be more than $1.2 billion, based on an average hourly wage of $24.31 and if each worker spends just one hour on their brackets.”
Like most years, the 2015 tournament has a little bit of local flavor if you’re interested. Perennial New England representative and defending national champion UConn did not manage to qualify this year. However, Harvard won the Ivy league for the fourth straight year and will look to go for their third 1st-round upset in four years. They start off with a tough University of North Carolina team. Northeastern also made the dance for the first time in awhile. They have a lowly 14 seed and start off the tournament by playing the very first game versus a hot Notre Dame team that just won the ACC championship. The expectation is their tournament experience is going to be pretty short. Providence is also in the tournament. They have had a pretty solid year and are capable of winning some games, but next year is when they’re going to have their best shot to win it all. They start off this tournament with Dayton, and if they get by them, they have been a trendy upset pick to knock off #3 Oklahoma in the second round.
If you’re looking to get involved or make some wagers, you can’t go wrong with Kentucky. They’ve been exceptionally dominant all year, and they have on their bench Sam Malone, whose high school playing days were at Scituate High School.
Like most years, there is a lot of parity in college hoops and a lot can happen. Author’s pick: Arizona over Virginia. Happy watching!