March Madness brings the best of college basketball together, all vying for a national championship ring. Perhaps one of the most popular aspects of the college basketball tournament is bracket building.
Bracket building originally started back in 1851, and instead of basketball, brackets were used for chess tournaments. When the NCAA hosted their first tournament in 1939, the bracket consisted of 8 teams that were placed in a two region bracket (east and west). The bracket did not appeal to fans in its early years, with limited teams to choose from and consistent wins from teams such as UCLA.
According to an article by the Smithsonian, the very first bracket pool started in 1977 where only 88 people participated. In 1985, the NCAA launched a 64-team bracket which drew in more fans.
Kacie Williams’, a junior, involved her family this year in a bracket challenge. “Just this year I started a pool for my family because I’m a big basketball fan, and I wanted my family to do something fun. The prize is only $30, so it’s not very big, but I thought adding some money would make everyone in my family plus my grandparents want to do it,” said Williams.
Apps such as March Madness and ESPN Tournament Challenge allow people to submit their brackets online and enter in chances to win major prizes such as tickets to a basketball game or a cash prize. Celebrities often create their own bracket challenge and play along with fans to see how well their teams do.
Even major companies get in on the bracket building-Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett’s company) offers one million dollars a year for life if they correctly guess the jackpot, and in 2018, that did not happen. This is available to all employees and in the result that nobody wins, a $100,000 prize is given to the closest bracket.
The competitive spirit in bracket building is visible in everyone, from die hard sports fans to first time watchers, the tournament offers something for all people. “I think bracket building is popular because it adds more excitement to the game even if people know nothing about basketball. If someone has a favorite team but knows nothing about basketball like me then I think they find it fun to see how far their team can advance in the tournament,” said Williams.
With the round of sweet sixteen over, it was announced that the last perfect bracket is no longer perfect, losing during the Purdue vs Tennessee game . This breaks the record for the longest streak of correct picks. Even if your bracket is busted, there’s always next year to try and break the record.