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Is there a science to bracketology?


The Madness of March Madness
Enthusiasts gather in the sports book inside the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa in Las Vegas on Jan. 15, 2005. Sports books see an enormous rise in traffic during March Madness.
Enthusiasts gather in the sports book inside the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa in Las Vegas on Jan. 15, 2005. Sports books see an enormous rise in traffic during March Madness.
Todd Bigelow/Aurora/Getty Images

For most fans, March Madness, bracketology and office pools are all in good fun. But there are some who take March Madness further. Some make careers out of it, some make clubs and even religions out of it, and some resort to killing because of it.

­Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm are arguably the leading experts on bracketology. Lunardi is the resident bracketologist for ESPN, and Palm is an independent analyst who appears on television and works with Division I schools who want to change their schedule in order to receive a higher RPI. Both are extremely well-respected throughout the sport.

A group of college basketball fans in New York City has started "The Church of Bracketology." Members meet at a bar to watch games and compare their brackets. They refer to time in terms of when basketball began. The year A.D. 2005, when the church was founded, becomes 113 AB -- after basketball. Members follow "The Book of Naismith" (the founder of basketball), and their commandments are the original 13 rules of basketball. Their motto: "College Basketball…It's not a science, it's a religion."

Unfortunately, not all followers of college basketball are so lighthearted. One year, the NCAA launched an investigation into student athletes who may have been paid to throw games. Likewise, the FBI is monitoring student athletes who may be contacted during the Final Four. Organized crime members are known for trying to contact and bribe student athletes so they can win their own bets.

And betting on the games is a big business. In 2006, Las Vegas saw a spike in basketball betting during March Madness season -- the Gaming Control Board reported $195.7 million in bets compared to $95.9 million in February. Illegal gambling in office pools, online sites and bookies reaches $6 billion a year [source: USA Today].

Although some people view pools and bets as harmless, betting on the NCAA tournament has sometimes had fatal consequences. College student Joseph Kupchik used his tuition money to bet on the 2006 NCAA championship and on online gambling sites. He lost it all and eventually stabbed himself in the chest and jumped off the ninth floor of a parking garage. While this story isn't typical of the normal NCAA college basketball fan, it's an example of what can happen if gambling gets out of control.

For more information on bracketology, basketball and related topics, see what we found on the next page.