March Madness inspires bracket mayhem

Assistant sports editor Kevin Lucena Photo credit: Trevor Ryan

March Madness is back.

All across the country, people are filling out brackets online and turning them in for the big dance.

On any given night, any of the top 64 teams in the country can beat any of the other top 64 teams in the tournament.

No other sports championship offers that much insanity.

Every one of the 347 Division I basketball teams has a chance to qualify.

College teams can earn an automatic bid by winning their conference tournament championships, while the rest have to wait for selection Sunday to see if they qualify.

Nothing in sports brings fans together like bracket competitions. I’ve been playing tournament bracket for years and will be paying my $20 to enter again this year.

Every year, millions of people fill out brackets.

Most participants try to get time off from work to watch the 32 games that take place over two days to start the tournament.

The bracket brings together everyone from die-hard sports fans to people who haven’t watched a game all year.

The randomness of the tournament gives everyone a chance to win.

Last year, ESPN set a record with 11 million people participating in its tournament challenge, surpassing the total set a year before by 35 percent.

At its peak, people were filling out 199 brackets per second.

For the last few years, President Barack Obama has even filled out a bracket in the White House, which was shown live on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Now Warren Buffet has joined the madness. Last year, he offered $1 billion to anyone who could make a perfect bracket.

Fortunately for Buffet — and sponsor Quicken Loans — there were zero perfect brackets by the end of the first weekend.

“I would have preferred to see it go quite a bit longer. Not all the way, but quite a bit longer,” Buffet said on Dan Patrick’s radio show.

The top 20 performers were awarded $100,000 after all participants missed at least one prediction in the first 25 games.

The results on ESPN looked nearly as bleak with just 18,741 of the 11 million people —17 percent — getting all 16 games right on the tournament’s opening day.

This season, the Kentucky Wildcats, who were the runners-up last year, entered the tournament as the favorite after an undefeated 31-0 regular season.

Kentucky’s head coach John Calipari will be going for his second NCAA Tournament title as the top seed.

To anyone filling out a bracket for the first time, don’t be afraid to pick some upsets. Every year I seem to talk myself into playing the 12 seeds over the five seeds in almost every matchup with mixed success.

But still, there is nothing more boring than just betting on the favorites to win.

Be bold — hopefully not everyone picks Kentucky to win it all this year.

Kevin Lucena can be reached at [email protected] or @klucena824 on Twitter.