March Madness, the annual men's college basketball tournament, tips off at 10:25 a.m. today. Sixty-four teams will compete in the three-week-long event in search of a national champion.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

March Madness, the annual men's college basketball tournament, tips off at 10:25 a.m. today. Sixty-four teams will compete in the three-week-long event in search of a national champion.

NCAA basketball tournament begins today


— The NCAA basketball tournament is called March Madness for a reason.

It's a tournament that has proven to be truly mad.

Every year, without fail, there are games that go to the final second with one team making a last-second shot or a "buzzer beater" to clinch a win.

It's not like a best of seven series found in the NBA finals or the World Series where a team can afford to lose a game.

If you lose during March Madness, you're done.

There are no second chances.

The impact of March Madness is found throughout the country as people who don't generally follow college basketball - or even sports for that matter - find themselves yelling at a television screen while clutching their Final Four bracket in their hands.

Office pools dominate workplaces and bracketology becomes a science, while bookmakers in Las Vegas and television stations nationwide rake in the revenue.

"The dollars legally wagered on college basketball in Nevada more than doubled to $228 million in March 2007 from $107 million the previous month," Frank Streshley, an analyst with the Nevada Gaming Control Board said through the NGCB Web site. "And the previous month featured the Super Bowl."

And putting a few bucks down on your alma matter, or favorite mascot isn't just for those who call themselves hoops fans.

A Chicago-based Web site survey indicated 18 percent of U.S. office workers have participated in March Madness college basketball pools at their jobs. surveyed 8,038 full-time office workers between Nov. 12 and Dec. 1, 2008, and found 24 percent of male respondents said they have participated in office pools related to the annual March NCAA basketball championship, while 11 percent of women said the same.

Even the most famous office in America - the Oval Office - has a pool this year. (In case you're wondering, President Barack Obama picked UNC to win it all).

Moffat County is no exception to the craze.

The basketball office at Moffat County High School produced two picks Wednesday.

Boys hoops coach Steve Maneotis picked Louisville to win the title.

"I like Pitt, Louisville, Memphis and Syracuse to make the Final Four," he said. "And I like Louisville to go all the way. I like the way they are playing right now, and they seem to be the most consistent."

MCHS girls coach Craig Mortensen is taking Gonzaga.

"I think it will be Gonzaga and Louisville in the final," he said. "I'm taking Gonzaga to go all the way."

But, as the tournament has become a spring ritual where even casual sports fans break out their favorite team jerseys, take part in office pools, watch games online, and talk trash over cubicle walls - all cutting into an otherwise productive workday - some say companies lose money because of it.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based consulting firm, reported that time wasted during the three weeks of March Madness will cost the economy $1.7 billion.

Because workers are at their desks doesn't necessarily mean they're being productive.

"When you come in and five people are talking about it, then somebody sends you a link and you watch it online, you become less productive," Lena Bottos, director of compensation for, said through the Web site. "It's a big time-waster."

Decide for yourself.

Opening round action between No. 2 seed Memphis and No. 15 Cal State Northridge is at 10:25 a.m. today.


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