Be warned, America; something is about to take over the country -- something so powerful it will bring offices to a standstill for the next 24 days. The hoopla surrounding the NCAA basketball tournament starts today, on somewhat of a national holiday: Selection Sunday.
So be careful; no one is immune from the madness that is about to ensue.
Bigger Than the Super Bowl?
The three week phenomenon known as "March Madness" tips off today with the formal announcement of the 65 teams that will participate in the 2007 NCAA Men's Division 1 basketball tournament.
Basketball analyst and ESPN contributor Ken Pomeroy says the sheer size and scope of the tournament make this competition the pinnacle of all sporting events.
"What makes college basketball unique is that there are 336 teams," Pomeroy said. "This is an event that takes three weeks. It's different from the Super Bowl that's over and done with in a day."
It's true that other sporting events draw out beyond a day. The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball determine their champions through a series of playoffs. But both of those events are best of seven series.
Pomeroy said the fact that "March Madness" is a single-elimination tournament makes it more exciting.
"This is unlike any other event. The reason it's so popular is because anything can happen, there are no second chances," he said.
It's Anyone's Game
One of the most popular things about "March Madness" is the bracket itself. Immediately following the announcement on Selection Sunday, millions of Americans will begin making their predictions for who they think will take home the trophy as they pencil in their picks on the bracket.
The unpredictability of the tournament gives everyone from basketball aficionados to newcomers a chance to win a bracket pool.
"Even if you're an avid basketball fan it's hard to make sense of the event, so it gives somebody who doesn't follow the sport as much of a chance of winning the office pool as anyone else because so many things can happen," Pomeroy said.
Sorry Boss, I Got a Game to Watch
While fun to watch, the tournament is a headache for bosses across the country. Organized "March Madness" pools and games played during the day means many workers will be alittle distracted the next couple of weeks.
"I don't know of any other sporting events that take place during the workday," Pomeroy said. "I'm sure that plays a role in decreasing office productivity, as does the online situation."
With more and more Web sites offering bracket-tracking online, workers are logging on to check their progress in addition to checking game scores throughout the day, something Chicago-based company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said may cost more than $1.2 billion in lost productivity.
In addition to tracking games online, CBS Sports, the network broadcasting the tournament, will offer streaming video of 56 games online for a second year in a row.
What's Luck Got to Do With It?
With everyone buying a one-way ticket to "Bracketville," what are the chances of winning a pool?
"There's a ton of luck involved," said Pomeroy, whose Web site www.kenpom.com tracks a number of unique statistics on the team and player level including a "Luck Stat."
"But you can't predict luck," he said. "That's why the NCAA tourney is so wacky; it's those kind of unpredictable games that make the tournament what it is."
Even if you're a big fan of the game, like Pomeroy, nothing about March Madness is predetermined. Part of the popularity of the sport is that a team can come out of nowhere and win in an upset.
"You know there's always going to be a few upsets," Pomeroy said. "But the further you advance, the results become a little more expected."
Pomeroy has made a second career out of predicting NCAA wins and losses and giving advice to millions on ESPN.com and his Web site. So how many pool wins does a bracketologist like Pomeroy have under his belt?
"I usually don't end up winning," he said. "Probably because I think I know more than I do."
But even the experts have the odds stacked against them. The chances of picking an absolutely perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 -- good luck.