Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

The madness behind bracket building

Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

It’s virtually impossible to create a perfect March Madness bracket. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning and win the lottery on the same day. 

Across both the men’s and women’s 2024 March Madness tournaments, long-time college basketball fans and casual followers alike created over 25 million official brackets. This comes alongside historically high viewership of the tournament and college basketball in general. 

The 2024 men’s tournament is already reaching record-high viewership across the early rounds This year, college women’s basketball saw an average of 476,000 viewers on ESPN across regular season games. 

Though the women’s tournament continues to rise in popularity now, just two years ago they could not even use the “March Madness” label. 2022 marked the first year that both the men’s and women’s college basketball championship tournaments were under the trademark. 

Before the 2024 tournaments started, anyone could use ESPN’s online tool to view top players and compare team statistics. Each matchup included points per game and conference win-loss records, among other information. I didn’t even look at ESPN’s well-sorted data this year, instead opting to trust my limited college basketball knowledge that mostly consists of watching reels about star players like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso.

I made a women’s bracket this year, and I combined my social media “research” with a very brief once-over of ESPN’s statistics. According to my admittedly unqualified opinion, Iowa will win the championship game on April 7 over fellow No. 1 seed South Carolina. I predicted some random upsets that didn’t pan out, but that was to be expected.

As for the men’s tournament, I didn’t even make a bracket. Honestly, I forgot—my social media feeds are dominated by the women’s tournament—but I probably would have picked a random 1-seed to win it all.

Even college basketball fans who make educated picks only have a one in 120.2 billion chance of predicting every single game correctly. Some bracket builders rely on industry professionals to help them make the best predictions, and others make more chaotic picks based on music or mascots

Everest Leach, a freshman sports communication major, finds a middle ground between statistics and fun—it’s what makes March Madness so exciting for him.

Leach has been a fan of March Madness for over 10 years. He builds his brackets by following college basketball leading up to the tournament, watching analysts make their picks, and trusting his intuition. 

“Nobody’s ever made a perfect bracket and nobody probably ever will,” Leach said in an interview with the Beacon. “At the end of the day, there’s always upsets, there’s always overachievers and underachievers, and it’s just fun to try your best.”

In the men’s tournament, Leach has No. 1 seed University of Connecticut winning it all for the second year in a row. 

“A team hasn’t gone back-to-back in a really long time, but I just think UConn has looked like the best team all season,” he said. 

Leach’s home-state loyalty put No. 9 seed Michigan State in the Sweet 16, and he predicted an Elite Eight “Cinderella Story”—a label for “underdog” teams that perform unexpectedly well throughout the tournament—for No. 9 seed Texas Christian University. 

This year marks the second time Leach has made a women’s tournament bracket. 

“Even though I might not know or watch as much as I do on the men’s side, I still feel like there’s a lot of stars on the women’s side of things,” he said. “There’s awesome women’s college basketball going on right now that needs to be watched.”

Leach is predicting a South Carolina win over Iowa—who he sees winning a rematch against No. 3 seed Louisiana State University in the Elite Eight—in the championship game. 

“Obviously it would be awesome to see Iowa win because Caitlin Clark is the biggest name in women’s college basketball, and this her last season before she goes to the WNBA, but I just think South Carolina is the better team,” Leach said.

Just one week into the tournament, Leach’s brackets are already “busted.” In the men’s tournament, both Michigan State and TCU did not advance past the first round. However, he still enjoys following the tournament and playing in groups, with both those who do and don’t follow college basketball. One of Leach’s friends made a bracket based on her favorite school colors. 

Upsets are almost guaranteed, and Leach loves watching young athletes’ stories unfold. March Madness will never be perfect, but it will always be engaging, and his philosophy for building brackets will continue to be based on “just what you watch and what you feel in your gut.”

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