March Madness Mania: From brackets to game-watching gatherings, annual sports excitement builds

2014-03-06T00:00:00Z March Madness Mania: From brackets to game-watching gatherings, annual sports excitement buildsBy Stephen Lesniewski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Every March, millions flock to their television sets to watch the best that college basketball has to offer.

Sixty-eight teams playing 67 games in a span of 21 days – with one team taking home the crown. Let the madness begin.

"I love the fans and the excitement of the games," said Keith Campbell of Chicago.

"It's just fun, and the atmosphere is exciting."

Cinderella-outcomes and stunning upsets are par for the course, and that doesn't even include the conference tournaments leading up to "the Big Dance."

While the Super Bowl attracts the most television viewers in a single event, the NCAA tournament, as a whole, captures more viewers, per Forbes, as alumni, and new found fans, of the 68 teams watch the tournament unfold.

Among the memorable stories from past tournaments, Campbell said one of his favorites was from last year after Louisville won the title and helped Kevin Ware, who broke his leg earlier in the tournament, cut down the net.

"It was touching," he said. "And even though they were the top seed, it felt like a Cinderella story with the team winning and helping him cut down the net."

WHERE TO WATCH

While living rooms are a common preference for some viewers, the tournament games are easily accessible to fans away from home – as all the games are being streamed online and countless sports bars will have the games on.

Among them is the designated one of the "official hangouts of March Madness," according to national promotional campaigns targeted to this favorite time of college basketball season, is the Buffalo Wild Wings chain.

"Our 50 TVs usually get people in," said Darci Lopez, manager of Buffalo Wild Wings in Calumet City.

"We have the most amount of TVs [among sports bars] in the area, and we put the games on people want to watch. Plus, our wings also keep bringing them back."

Lopez also said her store is reaching out to alumni groups of local teams playing in the tournament for viewing parties of games those teams are playing.

BRACKETS

While fans flock to TV screens, a common pastime is the filling out of the tournament brackets. Millions of brackets are filled out each year in office pools, among friends and online, and this year will likely surpass those numbers with the added incentive of Warren Buffet's $1 billion perfect bracket challenge, which could award the maker of a bracket to correctly guess every match-up through the National Championship a $1 billion prize.

"Setting up the bracket is fun but difficult," said Matthew Rosado of East Chicago.

"You don't know what is going to happen with upsets, and you never know what to expect with small schools, like Butler with back-to-back National Championship appearances. No one ever would have guessed that."

The odds of filling out the perfect bracket are improbable – near impossible – and every year has its handful of so called "bracket busters."

One such bracket buster was 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast, with its first NCAA tournament appearance ever, not only beating 2-seed Georgetown, but making the Sweet 16.

"March Madness can go any kind of way," Campbell said.

"It really is unpredictable."

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