Unpredictable Party: Why March Madness is so Fun

March Madness is the nickname given to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, an annual event that takes place in March. It features 68 hoops teams from across the country trying to advance in a single-elimination format over a three-week stretch.

Some fans are anxious for it to start, while others are already looking for info to make the most accurate college basketball picks today. Let’s look at why March Madness is something sports fans wait for.

With such a large field, any team can pull off an upset against the odds at a given time — making basketball games exciting and unpredictable. The combination of excitement and unpredictability—as well as fan engagement and bracket challenges—make March Madness one of the most popular sporting events in America.

Fans fill out a bracket to predict how the tournament will play out, and then they can track their progress against other fans using online leaderboards. The thrill of making a correct prediction and watching as it unfolds on television makes the whole experience even more enjoyable.

Millions of people participate in office pools that involve bragging rights, no matter how much a fan knows about the landscape of the tournament coming in. Some people decide on their brackets by which team mascot they like better, and others flip coins or simply try their best guess.

Then, each year it seems there’s a Cinderella story that gains the attention and adoration of many. Underdog teams—those perceived to have little chance of winning by sports-betting odds and other predictions—suddenly reach the tournament’s later rounds and beat higher-ranked rivals along the way. These upsets have become a major part of the appeal of March Madness for fans.

People tend to root for the smaller school that struggles against more powerful forces. Lower-ranked teams often face off against higher-ranked, blue-blooded opponents, making the upset even more thrilling. They can destroy the dreams of fans who have filled out tournament brackets, causing them to question their predictions and expectations for future games.

There’s no better finish to a game than a buzzer-beater, either. That type of play is common in March Madness, which usually has one or two per go-round. A few years ago, Villanova won the whole thing on a thrilling last-second shot against North Carolina. A team pulling victory from the jaws of defeat is a hard feeling to describe.

It’s not just a rollercoaster ride for those who try to predict who will win it all, but those who cheer for and have an emotional attachment to their favorite college squad, too. The games bring out strong emotions and reactions as the season comes to a culmination. Most watch their team throughout the season, hoping they’ll have a chance to lift the trophy.

The atmosphere is much different than that of professional hoops. Many of the players in March Madness, though very talented and well-trained, are amateurs playing their last college games.

This creates a sense of urgency and anticipation that is different from the NBA, where games are scheduled throughout an 82-game regular season that feels like it drags on forever.

Fans can form a community and camaraderie among themselves, which is different from the pro game, where fans may focus on individual players’ stats. Not to mention, players move from team to team so much nowadays that it’s hard to keep up.

The tournament is also a great way to showcase the best of college basketball. While many teams are depleted by graduation or early departures, others have younger players who have been patiently waiting for their chance to shine and show off their skills. This is especially true for those programs that don’t recruit high-profile players like Kentucky does.

We’re not far away from the beginning of this year’s tournament, which is sure to be just as crazy and intriguing as any other year. Keep an eye out for those brackets and maybe choose a team to pull for before things get going — you want to be able to say you’ve been behind a team since before the tournament, of course.