March Madness Online: 5 Top Spots

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The sports wasteland of February has been brushed away as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament gets under way. Here are some sites that will have you setting up a bracket and getting back to work without costing your employer $75 billion in productivity losses.

March Madness Online: 5 Top Spots
Filled Out Your Bracket Yet?

CNBC sports business reporter and Gatorade blogger Darren Rovell says March Madness is big business, worth at least $3 billion as various pools begin at offices around the country. There’s another cost according to consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas: at least $1.2 billion in lost productivity, with $260 million of that coming in the opening Thursday and Friday days of the tournament. We would like to help everyone get back to work as quickly as possible.

To help you out, here is a list of places to play or run your brackets from the convenience of your work cubicle. All of them require free site registration to participate and must have entries before tipoff of the first game on Thursday, March 15.

1.  ESPN
Many people think of the Worldwide Leader in Sports when they think about the tournament. ESPN’s Tourney Challenge dangles $10,000 in front of the top winner of its contest.

ESPN’s drag and drop brackets, and team analysis that pops up when doing a mouseover of a school, make it a visually appealing application. Up to five entries can be submitted.

2.  Yahoo!
Yahoo will run its Tournament Pick’Em ’07, as they continue what has been an excellent program of fantasy sports games. They will reward perfect rounds with chances to win prizes from H-P, $50,000 cash, or the top prize of $1 million for a completely perfect sheet of picks.

Players will notice a little letter ‘i’ in a box for each matchup on Yahoo’s brackets. Click it, and you’ll see a brief synopsis of both teams, plus the Yahoo Outlook for each. Once the games get rolling, Yahoo’s Scenario Generator will show who needs what to happen for a shot at winning the contest.

3.  CBS Sportsline
CBS Sportsline not only offers its Bracket Challenge for players, but a Round By Round Challenge with a new competition each round. If your brilliant upset picks didn’t quite pan out well, Round By Round can give you new life.

The Bracket Challenge will pony up $10,000 for the overall winner. Its nifty little programming trick shows up as you pick teams. A mouseover of a team name will show the percentage of other players who picked that team for that position. If you’re a Notre Dame fan, enjoy the silence, because not many have picked them beyond winning one game.

4.  Fox Sports
Fox Sports has MSN as its fantasy partner, including the College Bracket Challenge. Naturally, Microsoft products figure in the prizes, as they plan to award five first prize winners an Xbox 360 system. The grand prize winner gets a 60" flat panel HDTV.

Like Yahoo, Fox/MSN provides matchup information for each bracket. People who want suggestions from the peanut gallery can opt to fill in their brackets automatically with Top Seeds, Popular Picks, or Expert Picks. The experts seem to like the one seeds except for North Carolina, they think Georgetown will beat them in a 1 versus 2 Elite Eight matchup.

5.  AOL Sports
AOL Sports has its Coke Zero-fueled Bracket Mania on tap for players this year. They’re offering a 42" plasma screen to the first place winner, and Best Buy gift cards to the next 19 finishers.

Entering brackets is a click to pick process, with a tiebreaker selected at the end. AOL’s gimmick is the NCAA Bracket-O-Matic, with slider controls that let people make their picks based on preferences like weighting a senior lineup over freshman in matchups, strength versus speed, state universities against private ones, etc.

All of these games will let people get in, make their picks, and get back to work quickly. The real time consuming starts when the games do, as people start following their upset choices and live and die with each three-pointer and free throw. At least a little productivity will be saved during the selection process.

We’re WebProNews, and we’re glad to help.

March Madness Online: 5 Top Spots
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