As a matter of course, only 1 of the 68 teams in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament will go home a winner. Plenty of other people gain from the tournament, though. For example, television networks benefit from growing March Madness ad spending, which in 2011 hit $738 million—up 20.2 percent from 2010, according to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks advertising spending.
But there are plenty of others who lose out during the NCAA men's tournament. Here are just three examples:
If the men's basketball tournament is "March Madness," the women's NCAA basketball tournament may as well be March "Meh," judging by TV ratings. While the two tournaments happen at roughly the same time, the men's games get far more fan attention, overshadowing their women peers.
According to figures from Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, just 2.4 percent of all TV-equipped households in 2011 tuned in to the women's championship game, giving it roughly 3.8 million viewers. By comparison, the men's tournament gets roughly five times the viewership: nearly 20.1 million people tuned in to the men's championship game last year.
One factor that cuts into the lady ballers' ratings appears to be where their games are broadcast. The women's championship game was broadcast on CBS until, in 1996, ESPN took over. When that switch was made, viewership of the women's championship game fell by more than half, from over 7.4 million viewers in 1995 to 3.5 million in 1996. Meanwhile, the men's game is broadcast on network TV, giving it a larger pool of potential television viewers.
Online streaming means that employees across the country can tune in to the games, making for nuisances for supervisors everywhere.
Watching at work could create problems on a "micro level" at the nation's workplaces, says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in its annual March Madness Report.
"The company's internet speeds may be slower, some workers will not respond to emails as promptly, and lunch breaks may extend beyond the usual time limits," said Challenger. "It's mostly a headache-inducing annoyance for information technology departments, human resources and department managers."
CBS.com has even helped employees to hide their multitasking with the "boss button," a feature that allows viewers, with one click, to quickly obscure the game with a fake email.
Still, Challenger noted, it would be a stretch to say that college basketball will be much of a drag on bottom lines, be it on a national or firm-by-firm level.
"Ultimately, March Madness will not even register a blip on the nation's economic radar and eventhe smallest company will survive the month without any impact on their bottom line," he said.
That Guy in the Office Pool Who Picked Duke
...or Georgetown, or Missouri, or any other well-regarded team that has already been upset by a poorly-seeded upstart. All of which is one way of emphasizing that filling out the bracket is in large part a game of chance. As the AP reported last week, the odds of picking the winner by simply flipping a coin for every game in the tournament are 1-in-100 quintillion.
Upsets can play a big part in this. In the 2011 contest, Virginia Commonwealth University was the Cinderella story of the year, becoming just the third No. 11 seed to ever make the Final Four. It made for an exciting tournament, but it also wreaked havoc on brackets. ESPN reported that just 2 of the 5.9 million brackets submitted to the site correctly picked the 2011 Final Four teams.