March, Money, and Madness

March, Money, and Madness

March 19, 2024
For those of us who are avid sports fans and watchers, we are entering into one of the best periods of the sports calendar. Last Sunday, the teams, seedings, and matchups were announced for 2024’s edition of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Most of America affectionately knows this single elimination battle royale of a competition by the name “March Madness”. The upcoming 3 week stretch of basketball games is always highly entertaining and never disappoints on drama. Millions across this country fill out the tournaments bracket in hopes of choosing the correct winners in each game and the correct team that will be crowned champion in early April. As a financial advisor, and College Basketball fan, I am always fascinated by the statistics behind this tradition. Since I am a numbers guy, today’s blog is going to be a bit different, maybe even a bit more fun than usual. I’m not sure that is even possible given the riveting financial topics we discuss every week, but I am going to try! So here goes, March Madness by the numbers: An different blog at a different time.
64
64 teams make it into the NCAA Tournament. 62 teams are safely selected for the first round while 4 teams compete in two single elimination play-in games to join the rest of the field in the first round. I have mentioned a couple times now that this is a single elimination tournament, meaning that if you win your game you stay in and if you lose you go home. Because there are 64 teams in the field and the number of remaining teams are cut in half each round, the eventual National Champion has to win 6 games in a row to be crowned king. It is a difficult challenge for any team to make and win the final team and is truly one of the greatest tests in team sport. This also leaves a big possibility that at least one of the tournament favorites will fall before the end because any team can have a bad night! That’s why we love March Madness, the upsets!
1,020
Since there are 68 teams in the tournament, and each team is allowed to have 15 players on the roster per NCAA rules, there are approximately 1,020 players that are at least traveling to the tournament this year. There is a good chance that most of us know less than 10% of those players, but that is part of the fun! Every year there is a small-name school that makes a run in the tournament and becomes famous for a few weeks. There is a good chance that there are some players we have never heard of that will become household names in the next few weeks.
32
There are 32 conferences that get automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, meaning that 32 conferences are represented by at least one team. The bigger conferences that many know about like the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, etc. all end up getting multiple teams in the tournament that are among the 36 teams that are invited despite not winning their conference tournament. Schools from many of the smaller conferences only have a chance to get in by winning their conference tournament title which makes their entry into the big dance all the sweeter. Maybe we will see one of those “Cinderella” teams make a deep run this year.
70 Million
The American Gaming Association estimates that there are over 70 million NCAA Tournament brackets completed every year online 1. While many people submit more than one bracket for prize competitions, this is still a very large operation that tens of millions of people are taking part in. This means that the odds of you having the best bracket are pretty slim. The odds of you having a perfect completed bracket are astronomically small. 
1 in 9.2 quintillion
According to calculations done by Forbes, you have a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of having a perfect bracket at the end of the tournament 2. What is a quintillion you might ask? A quintillion is a billion billions. The odds of you accurately predicting the correct outcome of every game in March Madness is incomprehensible. I cannot even wrap my head around that number.
$15.5 Billion
With the rise of legalized sports betting as well as easily accessible March Madness betting pools, it is estimated that a record 68 million Americans will bet a total of $15.5 Billion on the tournament this year 1. For reference, that is nearly a quarter of the country’s population putting money down in one way or another this year. 56.3 million of those people are projected to participate in a bracket contest much like those found on ESPN or CBS Sports. 21.5 million people are expected to bet casually with friends and 31 million people will actually place a bet on the games either online or in person (There are some people that are in more than one of those categories causing overlap). In totality an unbelievable some of money is changing hands simply from a betting standpoint in relation to this tournament. March Madness and the games themselves also drive commerce in other ways.
$1 Billion
The NCAA, College Athletics’ main governing body and host of March Madness, brought in an estimated $1 Billion from last year’s tournament. Not included in this number is the amount of economic growth that each city profited from hosting tourney games as well as the amount of money each conference and school get for participating 3
37%
Of those surveyed, 37% of Americans would be willing to call in sick or skip work so that they could watch March Madness 4. It is estimated that the average watcher spends 6 hours of their work week watching basketball when the tournament is in progress. I am not advocating that you skip work or that you waste time at you desk watching basketball. I am simply giving you the numbers :).
College sports in the United States are more popular than in any other country on this planet. There is a ton of interest each year for this tournament and some of the numbers behind it are staggering! I know that I will enjoy watching once again this year and I hope you do too! Hopefully you enjoyed reading something a little different this week. It might not have been as educational as most blog entries, but I reckon it was more entertaining. Thanks again for reading and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions for us whether they be about financial topics or if you just want to chat. See you next week!
Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.