It’s fun to wager on long shots and parlays on the betting app.

This March Madness is simply filling out a bracket, and then waiting for the upsets.

Although legal sports gambling in large swathes of the United States may have made it easier to wager on individual NCAA Tournament games, one thing is certain:

Nothing can beat the feeling of selecting the winners from all 60-something games and figuring out the national champions. Then, you have to pacing nervously through every buzzer beater and every painful upset. Each has the potential to make even the most casual fan feel like a genius. Even the most experienced hoops addicts can make a mistake and ruin the entire thing.

“It holds an important place because you rarely have someone approach you at the end the NFL season to ask you ‘Who’s your wild-card team?’,” said Dennis Deninger, a Syracuse professor whose most recent edition of “Live Sports Media” was released this month. “But the NCAA Tournament is a completely different thing.

The American Gaming Association is the national trade association for the gambling industry. estimates that 45 million Americans will place wagers of $3.1 billion in the tournament. Another conservative estimate says that 36.5 million people will also bet on brackets or office pools.

An average bet per bracket is around $30. These entry fees can be huge, sometimes reaching hundreds of thousands. But they can also turn into something valuable, namely the opportunity to prove to your colleagues, poker group, or golf club that you know college basketball better than anyone. Or cheer for better team mascots. You may have always known that your passion for a particular team’s colors would pay big one day.

It’s not about being perfect. The odds of that happening are 1 in 9.2 trillion — that’s a 9 and 18 zeros after it. Instead, it is a series or choices that can lead you to something better, such as bragging rights or a (nother) way to prove you are smarter than the rest.

Sheldon Jacobson, a University of Illinois researcher, said that “in many ways it’s a lubricant.”

Jacobson spent the last ten years trying build the best mousetrap for predicting brackets. He reduced it to three models last year. Each model produced one million brackets. Two models produced combinations that would have won the ESPN pool contest, which had around 17 million entries.

Jacobson warns that you should not attempt this at home. Jacobson reminds us that his goal is not to pick individual games. However, it can dramatically increase the chances of creating a bracket that is above-average. His models focus only on seed numbers and their historical performance. His computers don’t care about the fact that the name “Auburn”, or “Duke” might not be in the seeding this year.

Jacobson stated, “When you talk about hardcore gamblers you’re referring to a different animal.” “But I believe we are still conserving the office pool because it’s enjoyable, it’s fascinating, and it allows people to bond and communicate.”

Due to the rapid rise in legalized gambling, the number and type of brackets that are being filled out is likely to decrease this year. However, the number of Vegas-style bets on individual games or combinations is expected to increase.

There are more than 30 states that offer legalized sports betting. March Madness, in its entirety, will bring in more than the Super Bowl.

The NCAA created the bracket in 1985 to be the best tool for fan engagement. It was expanded to 64 teams and allowed for four regions with perfectly symmetrical regions. Each region has 15 games that lead to the Final Four.

There have been times when the stakes are higher than just fun and games. Famously, Rick Neuheisel, a football coach at Washington was fired for violating school rules by participating in a basketball league.

Even though gambling has infiltrated sports leagues in ways previously thought impossible — see all that surrounds NFL’s recent suspension to wide receiver Calvin Ridley — NCAA has maintained its strict stance against intercollegiate wagering. This is ironic considering that the bracket has been the most important driver of American sports betting, no matter how small the wagers may be.

This month, however — after the tournament was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 and then moved to Indianapolis in 2021 — doesn’t feel like the right time to discuss things that are wrong with March Madness.

It’s an opportunity to envision all possibilities. What better way to do this than filling out a bracket

Deninger stated, “It is one of those pride items.” It creates conversation and socialization. After what we’ve gone through over the past year and a half, it may be exactly what we need.