March Madness by the Numbers

April 2, 2016, 2:00 PM UTC
NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Villanova vs North Carolina
Apr 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; View of the trophy as confetti falls after the game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four at NRG Stadium. Villanova won 77-74. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports - RTSDLNM
Photograph by USA Today Sports/Reuters

March Madness by the Numbers

By Jon Chew, Stacy Jones, Analee Kasudia, Benjamin Snyder, and Kacy Burdette

America’s biggest college sports event of the year—in data, charts, trends, and graphs.


It’s no surprise that the NCAA’s March Madness bastketball tournament leads to millions of dollars in bets across the U.S. and is something of a time drain among workers across the country. Online streaming makes it easy to do at your desk, after all. To find out more, Fortune partnered with Morning Consult, a media and polling company, to ask people just how much they watched the sport while on the job.

Interestingly, it appears that the more income people collect each month, the more likely they are to watch games at work. In fact, those making over $100k were about 10% more likely to watch than their counterparts making between $50k and $100k and those who make less than $50k.

But that’s not all. Fortune also found what types of industries people are in that tend to watch March Madness the most.


Before March Madness started, your bracket was pristine and your bets were looking good. But today, you are crying on your office table over wasted wagers—and you’re not alone.

The American Gaming Association estimates that around $9.2 billion worth of bets are expected to be made by the end of this year’s tournament, a $200 million increase from last year.

This includes all bets made through both Nevada sports books and your office pools, and illegal channels such as bookies and offshore sites.

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Most of the bets, however will be made informally (read: in your office), AGA estimates, and only about $262 million wagers are expected to be made legally.

By the time we crown a champion on Monday, around 70 million brackets would have been completed, and that number is expected to eclipse the number of voters for any single candidate in this year’s elections, whether it’s Republican front-runner Donald Trump or Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton.


There’s been a surprising trend among those who Google March Madness. In fact, it appears to be on a pretty steady rise since about 2010. Before that, Google searching the NCAA play would rise and dip with 2004 and 2008 being years in which search traffic was particularly low.


Wonder who’s searching “March Madness” in Google the most? Well, we’ve looked at some of the data and the cities that signify the top five may come as a surprise. Check it out below:



Click through the timeline to see some of the best photos from this year’s games.


If you were looking to score tickets to the Final Four at the NRG Stadium in Houston, they didn’t come cheap.

A full strip of tickets—which included both the two semifinals and the national championship game—were going for an average resale value of $803 on SeatGeek. Fans who wanted to buy those tickets individually were paying an average of $515 for the semifinals, and $455 for the championship.

The good news? Those were cheaper than last year’s Final Four that featured name schools like Kentucky and Duke.

In the grand scheme of major sporting events, this year’s Final Four is actually much cheaper than attending Super Bowl 50 or last year’s World Series. “If you want to see a major [sports] championship, the Final Four is the best way to get in there at a reasonable price,” Chris Leyden, analyst at SeatGeek, told Fortune.

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So far, it seems fans of the Oklahoma Sooners are most interested in making the trip, Leyden said, making up 10% of all SeatGeek tickets sold for the Final Four.


Curious about when the tournament was most popular on television? Well, Fortune‘s got you covered. As the chart below illustrated, the highest-rated game ever was when Michigan St. played Indiana St. in 1979. Of course, at least part of the reason no 2000 and later games appears in the list (the most recent is 1994) is due to the rise of online streaming.


In another poll questions asked by Morning Consult, a surprising trend emerged: about 50% of respondents said they planned to watch none of the NCAA men’s tournament, while less than 20% said “a lot.”



UNC has sold the most gear since the tournament began on Mar. 17, according to Fanatics, the official fan merchandiser of the NCAA.

The team is followed by Final Four opponent—and fellow ACC team—Syracuse, and then Villanova and Oklahoma, who are also playing in the Final Four. The weakest one seed (according to many sports analysts), Oregon, closes out the top five in terms of merchandise sales.

For more, check out this story here.