You think March Madness is all about basketball?
Sure, millions will be watching the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to see whether Kentucky’s bid for an unbeaten season can be quashed or whether a 14 seed can make it to the Final Four.
But the popularity of the tournament also spawns another kind of madness — one that includes college applications, vasectomies and HDTV upgrades.
What are the odds? (Probably a heck of a lot better than picking a perfect bracket.)
Here are some of the more unusual aspects of the Big Dance:
Glass slipper, golden payoff
Cinderella teams don’t just provide a couple weeks’ entertainment — according to some studies, their success has long-term effects. Thanks to exposure from the NCAAs, such teams as Florida Gulf Coast and George Mason see rises in applications and endowments.
Academics call it the “Flutie Effect,” after the charge Boston College received from a last-second 1984 win against Miami, thanks to a Hail Mary pass from quarterback Doug Flutie. (Go ahead and watch it again — we’ll wait.)
Experts debate how much of an influence athletic wins have on admissions, but there’s no question a Cinderella turn gives schools greater exposure, which certainly can’t hurt. George Mason, which went to the Final Four in 2006, and Gonzaga, which broke into nationwide consciousness in the late ’90s, saw applications go up after their turn on stage.
Money in the basket
March Madness pulls in more national TV revenue (as of 2013) than any other postseason sports franchise: $1.15 billion. A lot of that money comes from fast-food franchises, who know you like to eat while watching the games.
And those franchises may benefit more from losses than wins. According to WalletHub, there’s a 19% increase in pizza orders and a 9% rise in dessert orders by fans after their teams lose. Investors certainly know it: Buffalo Wild Wings stock has traditionally gone up in March.
Making the cut
Doctors report up to a 50% rise in the number of vasectomies during the NCAA tournament.
Well, if you have to spend a few days resting on the couch …
Everybody into the pool
According to a survey by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 50 million Americans participate in March Madness pools.
Productivity, shmoductivity, part 1
All that bracket-filling costs employers an estimated $1.2 billion in unproductive workers (assuming each worker spends an hour filling out a bracket). That may be low. WalletHub puts the figure at $1.9 billion. For all that, employers say the tournament is a net positive on morale.
Productivity, shmoductivity, part 2
27% of respondents to one 2014 survey say they watch games at work. (That could explain the morale situation.)
Would you like an upgrade with that?
According to the same 2014 survey, 12% would upgrade to HDTV if their favorite team made it to the Sweet Sixteen. (As of 2014, 59% of U.S. households have HDTV.)
Bet on the humans
Of the 76 champions, almost one-third — 25 — have had mascots based on a human figure, such as Hoosiers and Tar Heels. Fourteen have been bear-related (largely thanks to UCLA’s Bruins, who have won 11 championships) and 10 have been feline (Kentucky’s Wildcats, mainly).
Perhaps you should play the lottery
Odds of picking a perfect bracket are 9.2 quintillion to 1, assuming each team has a 50% chance of winning every game. Odds of winning Powerball: About 175 million to 1. Good luck!
TBS, TNT and truTV all air portions of the NCAA tournament. Those networks are part of Time Warner, as is CNN.