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March 23, 2014

Could the NCAA Tournament work for other sports?

McALESTER — When it comes to profitably, no league rakes it in like the National Football League. The NFL made $10 billion last season, according to reports by USA Today and CBS News.

No other league can match that, though Major League Baseball came close with an $8 billion payday in 2013.

If anyone’s going to ever beat the NFL, it’ll most likely be MLB. And how could they do it?

By stealing a page from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s playbook.

Over the last decade, advertising revenue from the NCAA’s annual men’s basketball tournament has skyrocketed from $454 million in 2004 to $1.15 billion in 2013, an NBCNews.com article said Thursday. The NCAA has the most profitable postseason in America.

Why is ad revenue so high? One answer could be that tournament brackets are just so fun to fill out, which is why every year millions of people do it.

There’s a decent chance the majority of people who fill out brackets aren’t diehard college basketball fans. And even among the ones who do regularly watch college basketball, how many among them are so familiar with the landscape of teams that they can make an informed decision about all 67 games?

As an answer to that question, consider this: In the Yahoo! Sports Quicken Loans Bracket Challenge, in which filling out a perfect bracket could be worth $1 billion, it took just 25 games before every bracket in the competition had at least one wrong answer.

The NCAA Tournament and its brackets make money precisely because you don’t have to be an expert in collegiate basketball to play. There’s no betting lines or over/unders — you just pick who you think will win and move on.

In many cases, you don’t even have to pay to play, and the prize is often just some minor bragging rights for a couple weeks. But once you’ve filled out a bracket, your interest in watching Iowa State play North Carolina Central (Iowa State won 93-75) goes way up, as does the advertising value of the Iowa St.-NC Central game.

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