Sweet Sixteen big for student betting

Students bet around $5 in pools during the third round of March Madness.

Heather L. Mueller

For students who see March Madness as a national sports holiday, tonight is the eve on which 16 teams get whittled down to four.

A large number of students will be glued to their screens cheering and jeering for their favorite seeds and rivals.

Sweet Sixteen is the third round in the NCAA March Madness tournament and will eliminate 12 teams from their chance at winning one of the most bet-on sporting events in the nation. The Final Four will be held March 31 and April 2 in Atlanta.

There are a number of online betting Web sites set up specifically for college basketball, and with around 35 percent of all college students betting on the tournament, plenty of students will take part.

Economics sophomore Greg Martin said he is obsessed with March Madness because it’s the most intense tournament in college sports. Martin and his friends place bets every year but said they don’t blow too much money – only around $5 per pool – on a tournament that anyone could win.

“These games are always huge upsets,” he said. “You watch during the season and all these teams’ records go unblemished. Then all of a sudden they get to the tournament and lose to someone that’s not even close to their ability.”

Statistics and carefully researched matchups often don’t help fans predict tournament outcomes. Most tend to go with their gut and hope they get lucky.

After watching NCAA teams all season, first-year student Carl Carpenter draws satisfaction from filling out his tournament bracket.

“I have Ohio State winning it all, because I have a Big Ten bias,” he said. “In a lot of ways I just go by who I like and who I hate. And the rest just kind of falls into place.”

Carpenter’s March Madness fanaticism isn’t bogged down by the Gopher men’s team failing to make the cut.

“College basketball is a sport that, no matter what teams are playing, you can enjoy the game,” he said.

Mechanical engineering junior Mohamed Elabbady said if the Gophers were in, there’d be more hype on campus for the tournament.

“I think it plays a big role if your team is in it or not,” he said.

But a lack of campus excitement hasn’t hindered Elabbady’s ability to round up 30 students for the Beta Chi Theta $5 pool; they said all of the money will go to charity.

Technology has helped lure newcomers to get in on tournament excitement, but a new Gophers head coach could be the trick to getting University students to grab hold of the Madness.

“We’re going to be a perennial powerhouse in, like, one year,” Carpenter said.

Gopher fans might support other Big Ten teams, but most students enjoy the tournament no matter what color jersey players are wearing.

“I don’t really care who I’m watching. All of them are good games,” Martin said.