Like everyone else in the U.S. who fills out a bracket for their office pool, I always have a strategy going into the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments. It’s a mix of alma mater pride, light research, some guessing and a lot of crossing my fingers. And, like almost everyone, my bracket always gets busted.
With both the Men’s and Women’s Final Four being played out on the hardwood in the United States this weekend, we thought it would be a good time to check in with what American sports fans are searching for around the web.
Almost ever year, an unknown team comes out of nowhere to end up in the Final Four. Back in 2006, that team was [george mason] and last year it was [butler university]. In the men’s bracket this year, there’s not just one, but two “Cinderellas,” in the form of the VCU Rams and the return of the Butler University Bulldogs. These underdogs have captured the attention of the nation’s sports fans; searches for [vcu] have climbed lately and currently outpace searches for each of the other three teams in the Men’s Final Four.
When the women take the court in Indianapolis, Indiana, for their Final Four this weekend, I’ll be rooting on my Notre Dame Fighting Irish in what looks to be an even field of four teams. But in search query volume, there’s a runaway favorite: [uconn] leads the way against the other three teams in the bracket. The Stanford Cardinal are trying to break through this year, having played in the previous three Final Fours, but have to get to the finals first against a tough Notre Dame team. Having both the UConn Men and Women playing in the Final Four is clearly a strong reason for this search volume lead, but so is having arguably the best player in the women’s game!
Great coaches can get their teams to dig deep and come together to succeed in the difficult field of 64. In the women’s tournament, the coaching match-up that hoops fans across the country were hoping for unfortunately won’t take place: we’re not going to be seeing a head-to-head battle between two giants of the coaching profession in UConn’s [geno auriemma] and Tennessee’s [pat summitt], thanks to my Fighting Irish of Notre Dame besting the Lady Volunteers of Tennessee. While Coach Auriemma’s team is still alive, Coach Summitt is winning the search query volume contest off the floor. I’m sure if I were Coach Summitt, I’d rather still have my team playing this weekend—but maybe her lead in search can be some small consolation!
On the men’s side, there’s a nice mix of seasoned veteran coaches as well as two young coaches emerging as rising stars. As we near the end of the tournament, it’s not Coach [jim calhoun] or Coach [john calipari] capturing the attention of U.S. searchers—it’s the young head coach at VCU, [shaka smart], and Butler’s equally young coach [brad stevens] who currently take the top spots in search query volume.
Each year, new stars emerge as the tournaments unfold. In 2010, Duke’s [kyle singler] captured the Final Four MVP, and in 2006 Florida’s [joakim noah] captured the nation’s attention. This year, Butler’s [matt howard] has risen to take the top spot as the most searched player of the tournament.
Finally, I know that I get a little basketball-crazy during this time of year, but looking at some of our data, I discover that I’m not alone. In the state of Indiana—the home of Hoosiers and some of the most vocal hoops fans, home-state [butler bulldogs] have pulled ahead of pop music star [katy perry] in search query volume. Now that’s dedication to basketball!
This tournament is always one of the most unpredictable sporting events in the country, so it’s comforting to know that the tournaments end the same way every year: with the champions cutting down the nets. While we can’t predict which team will be up on the ladder cutting the nylon, the search data does provide a glimpse into what we U.S. sports fans are interested in—and perhaps who we’re cheering for in the waning seconds of the games.
Like you, I’ll be sitting on the edge of my couch this weekend with my busted bracket in hand. Of course, in my case, I’ll be rooting on my alma mater. Go Irish!
Posted by Jim Lecinski, Managing Director, U.S. Sales and Service and Notre Dame class of ‘87