Fill ’em Out: Unleash the Madness!


Senior Nick Russolillo filling out a printable bracket

Josh Tanenbaum and Ryan Fan

As we flip our calendars to March, NCAA looks to its men’s basketball playoff tournament, March Madness. There may be a myriad of professional sports to follow today, each with its own league and playoffs, but March Madness is widely considered to be the greatest sporting event ever created, and dare I say, is the perfect event. 68 teams compete over 21 days in 14 venues across the country. The participants are the best teams the country has to offer and have the best records in the nation. Although there are big sponsors and a host of future NBA stars, what gives the tournament its famous name and what makes it so memorable each and every year are the endless and relentless upsets. In 2014, perhaps the biggest upset was No. 14 Mercer defeating the extremely young and talented No.3 Duke in the first round of the tournament.

At Ward Melville, many students will don sweatshirts of teams they fervently support in the tournament. From Kentucky to Duke to Arizona, students support powerhouse teams from across the country with fierce loyalty and spirit. However, the most popular and captivating part of the tournament for Ward Melville students is the creation of brackets, or predictions of the winners of every game in the tournament from the first round to the championship, on sports websites like ESPN, CBSSports, and Yahoo Sports. In 2014, over 11 million brackets were submitted to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. Ward Melville students are expected to submit over 2,000 brackets!

Participants gain points for each team they correctly pick to advance in each round. In each group of participants, the person with the most points at the end of the tournament wins. These pools are taken so seriously across offices, schools, and communities across the country that the FBI estimates $2.5 billion are spent in wagers annually. Ward Melville is no exception to this burgeoning cultural norm, with many students forming their own pool of brackets and granting prizes to those with top brackets.

Some follow the teams all season to make the perfect bracket, only to be left dumbfounded at a powerhouse team falling to a team whose name almost no one had heard before. Two years ago, this was the case with No.2 Georgetown falling to the lesser known No.15 Florida Gulf Coast University, a team who was just its second season in Division I basketball. The most decisive factor in making a good bracket is something no one can control: luck. This might explain the immense popularity of the brackets and the tournament. Sometimes it is the person that has never watched a game of college basketball before and decides his/her bracket based on the coolest sounding school names that makes the best bracket in a pool.

“I think what makes March Madness so much fun to me is competing with all my friends for who has the best bracket. I was pretty blessed the last few years when my UConn Huskies won the entire tournament in 2011 and 2014,” said senior Ryan Jacobson. “But it is awful when your team is ousted early though because you hear the heat from all your friends.”