Marching Into the Multiverse of Madness


With March Madness upon us, we wanted to see which Americans partake in the hysteria and which teams they believe will win the tournament. We totally did not poll Americans to place strategic bets against the Vegas betting line—that would be unethical. However, if a certain reader of a particular data-driven newsletter was interested in doing so, they definitely would not be judged by the writers of said newsletter…


A slight majority of Americans (54%) plan on watching at least one of the 67 tournament games. Roughly one-fifth of Americans plan to bet on the tournament (18%), either formally through a betting institution or informally among friends. Slightly more Americans say they’ll participate in a bracket challenge (29%), regardless of a wager. Among those participating in a bracket challenge, 80% will create at least two brackets. With the odds of filling out a perfect bracket being 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 if you just flip a coin, nothing says relentless optimism quite like trying to better your odds with an additional bracket.


Before the tournament began, we used our trusty MaxDiff experiment to stack rank the expected performance of the top 30 ranked NCAA men’s basketball teams by asking Americans who they thought were most and least likely to win the March Madness tournament. With zero brackets perfect after only four days of unpredictable tournament play, let’s see which of America’s top contenders are still in the mix.



Of the top five teams voted most likely to win, all but one have made it to the Sweet 16. Apparently, there’s no place like home for the Kansas Jayhawks! While Americans did well at predicting which top teams would still be in the tournament, their underdog predictions were not so hot: Americans believed Creighton University was the least likely to win the tournament of the 30 tested teams (86% less likely than the average team), yet they’re still in the hunt while 18 teams expected to do better than them have been toppled!


We humbly apologize to the dark horse college teams still kicking: Florida Atlantic University and Princeton. To all the FAU Owls and Princeton Tigers, we are truly sorry. This oversight will surely drive us into madness.