But whether you’re one of those nuts or novices, this truly is one of the most exciting years if you’re at all into sports.
With that in mind, here are five things you should keep in mind for your bracket and the tournament at large.
1. Picking a 5, 6 or 7 seed to be upset is not a bad bet
Put another way, the average number of upsets — excluding games where there is just one rank difference in seeding — in the round of 64 is 6.2 games, 3.7 in the round of 32, 1.7 in the Sweet 16, etc.
The chance of a No. 7 seed going down in the round of 64 is 39.5%, which is quite high. That basically holds for a sixth seed (37.5%) and a fifth seed (35.4%). Then it quickly declines to 21.5% for a fourth seed and 15.3% for a third seed.
2. You’re not alone if you don’t know what you’re doing filling out a bracket
There’s no reputable poll I know of that asks people “are you going to fill out a bracket, even though you don’t know anything about college basketball?”
Consider this: 13% of all searches for college basketball in 2021 happened in the one week leading up to the Final Four and the championship game. The one week peak in searches for other sports as a percentage of their total searches was significantly lower for college football (7%), professional baseball (5%) and professional basketball (5%).
In fact, about 39% of all searches for college basketball happened during the weeks of the tournament last year.
This provides evidence that there are probably a lot of people searching about college basketball during the tournament who don’t pay attention the rest of the year.
3. It’s unlikely that billions are being lost in productivity
So I’m lucky in so far as people at my job have, in the past, asked me to fill out brackets in my official capacity as a data guy. Side note: I think I came in fourth at CNN last year by just picking the higher seed in every game.
A lot of you though are probably trying to figure out how to win your bracket and follow the scores of the games on company time. It doesn’t help that the round of 64 starts at around 12 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Additionally, these studies often don’t control for a lot of things including the fact that work not done during a game can, and often will, be made up earlier or later; I’m writing this article at 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday for instance.
4. Most people aren’t filling out brackets or following along
The people who are filling out the bracket do stand out from the rest of the population in two ways.
First, they’re overwhelmingly men. According to that Marist College poll, 23% of men were planning on filling out a bracket compared to 7% of women. For reference, 55% of college sports fans were men and 45% were women in the same poll.
Second, and perhaps not surprisingly, they’re far more likely to have graduated from college — this is a college tournament after all. About a quarter (26%) of all college graduates claimed they were filling out a bracket in the poll. A mere 7% of non-college graduates said the same.
5. Duke will probably lose (thankfully)
Of course, no team has more than a 27% chance of winning the tournament. This is the beauty of what I mentioned at the top: March Madness means it’s anyone’s game.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bracket I have to go fill out.