An Office Guide to March Madness


March Madness is back! Feeling overwhelmed by all the office banter? Our handy guide will help you with the basics from filling out your bracket to sounding smart by the water cooler.


It’s that time of year again. You’ve received an email from someone in your office inviting you to participate in something called a “bracket challenge”. You know two things: this is something related to sports, and this is something people get excited about - but that’s about all you know. You sign up anyway, because you don’t want to be left out (and it’s a lot easier than participating in Fantasy Football). Yet many conversations still seem way over your head...

Some people look forward to their birthdays. Some people look forward to holidays and spending time with family and friends. Some people look forward to receiving their tax returns. As a Syracuse University alum, I look forward to March Madness, and I’m here to help. 


The Basics:

March Madness is the craziest tournament in college sports, and the grand finale of college basketball season. Every year, the NCAA selects 68 teams in the league that have proven themselves worthy of participating, divides them into regions (that have actually nothing to do with the physical location of the school), and assigns them rankings according to how well they are predicted to perform. 

Within each region, teams are ranked 1-16, with 1 being the best team in the region. Teams are pitted against each other, and scrappy, intense, sensational play ensues until the best team in college basketball is crowned national champion. The tournament is single elimination - if you lose, you’re out. 

Okay, that seems simple enough to understand. How do I participate?

That bracket you’ve been invited to fill out? That’s the fun part. Your bracket represents who you think will win each game. The challenge is to correctly predict the winner of more games than Jerry who always pours himself the last cup of coffee but never makes a fresh pot (or everyone else in your office, depending on how competitive you really want to be.) 


The Insider Lingo:

Big Dance - the affectionate name for the March Madness tournament. A “ticket to the big dance” is the invitation to participate in the tournament, and the ultimate acknowledgement of a team’s success.
NIT - The JV version of the Big Dance. Consists of 32 teams who didn’t qualify for March Madness. Stands for “National Invitation Tournament”, although it’s the invitation no one really wants.
Selection Sunday - The day it all begins. On Selection Sunday, a committee of NCAA officials get together and decide which teams qualify for the tournament. Bracket selections begin immediately afterwards, as after this point we know which teams will be competing, and what the match-ups will look like in the first round of play. This year, Selection Sunday is March 12.
Bubble Team - Predictions for who will be invited to the tournament happen consistently throughout the regular season. A “bubble team” is a team whose future is uncertain - they might get a bid, they might not. Selection Sunday is a nail-biter for these teams. 
Seed - Once teams are selected they are assigned rankings, or “seeds”, numbered 1-16. Seeds determine the matchups for the first round of play. The higher the seed, the better the team - and the harder they are to beat.
Bracket Buster - an unlikely outcome that no one predicted, which ruined a lot of people’s brackets. Did the 16-seed team beat the 1-seed team that you had predicted to go all the way to the championship game? Now your bracked is busted.
5-12 upset - Many tournaments have seen a 12-seed win over a 5-seed, to the point where the “5-12 upset” is often predicted. Want to live on the edge? Pick the 12-seed to win. Trust me. 
Cinderella - a lower-seeded school (who does not traditionally have a successful basketball program) that pulls off more than one unlikely win over higher-seeded teams. See also: University of Northern Iowa, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Wichita State.
Sweet Sixteen - the last 16 teams standing in the tournament. 
Elite Eight - the last 8 teams standing in the tournament (aka quarterfinals).
Final Four - the last 4 teams standing in the tournament (aka semifinals). 


Filling Out Your Bracket

Some people painstakingly research statistics and odds to help inform their predictions. Some people are perfectly content with choosing their bracket based on other sources of information, such as: 
•    Which school has the cooler mascot
•    Which school has the better school colors
•    Which school has the better football team
•    Which school your grandmother picks when you call her up and ask


Regardless of your strategy, filling out a bracket is a great way to get involved with one of America’s greatest traditions. It encourages office banter, fosters friendly competition, and you can stick it to Jerry at the same time. Happy March, everyone!

Sarah Foley
written by SARAH FOLEY

Sarah is an account manager at Carbon8, with over four years of experience in various marketing roles including design, creative strategy, project management, and account management. Prior to Carbon8, Sarah has worked on and managed multiple projects in the healthcare, education, and tourism industries.

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