With the killing of March Madness just days before it was set to begin, college basketball fans were suddenly left with a huge void and an uncertainty over how to get their fix. The coronavirus forced March Madness to be dubbed March Sadness, but there’s a little bit of relief in sight for those left unfulfilled. Enter simulated March Madness competitions that are even offering prizes to ease the sting.
One of these competitions is being operated using College Hoops 2K from Electronic Arts. Even though the game was discontinued a decade ago, it’s still better than nothing, given the circumstances, and revives analytics, random number generators and expert opinions to help fans get over the loss of the real thing. Real-game simulations are included (but based on the older data) and the contest also provides other aspects, such as articles and game recaps, as if the action never missed a beat.
Fanvest Wagering Exchange, a fantasy sports startup, has gotten in on the fun, also, offering a simulated beta March Madness Portfolio Challenge. This platform allows users to buy teams at the beginning of each round using “Fanbucks” for the free-to-enter competition. Free doesn’t mean the simulated March Madness tournament isn’t without perks, though, and the users who log the best total gain by the end of the series are eligible to receive cash prizes. There isn’t a lot at stake – the top winner will score just $100 – but it’s still better than sitting at home watching daytime talk shows. John Culver, the co-founder and CEO of Fanvest, is excited about the alternative and asserts, “By innovating and being dynamic, we feel we’re better positioned than traditional sportsbooks.”
There’s also “Corona Madness.” Launched by Jackson Weimer and Josh Safran, it could be as close to the real thing as anyone could expect this year. Soliciting help from family members and friends, they’re running their own March Madness bracket based on the rankings from the regular season, and streaming games on eBaum’s World, a Twitch account that covers odd topics. They even set up a Selection Sunday list that, should the real March Madness have continued, defines which teams are matched up to start the final competition series. According to Safran, “We were looking around the internet and, ultimately, it comes down to no one has anything to do, so why not watch these kids play this video game?”
While these alternatives may not be the real deal, they at least try to fill in the gaps and let hoops fans do something to pass the time besides watching the grass grow. They may be akin to drinking non-alcoholic beer, but, as the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make margaritas.