A Geography of March Madness

I caught March Madness from Lou Henson’s Flyin’ Illini mens’s basketball team back in Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois 20 some years ago.  “Kenny Battle, Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Steve Bardo, and Lowell Hamilton, with Marcus Liberty first off the bench.”  Those were the days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still no fan of publicly-funded sports nor their stadiums, but I do love a hard-fought game, on the gridiron, hard court or field of dreams.

Today began another epic chapter in this growing fairy tale. Already my brackets have been broken and battered by upsets.  Across the natio,n I am joined by fan after fan wondering the same question:  What game did Notre Dame show up at? Obviously it wasn’t the NCAA South Regional Game against Old Dominion today.

ESRI’s Business Analyst Blog puts those fans to the demographic grinder and comes up with some interesting marketing meat.

The map above illustrates the Market Potential Index for watching college basketball on television.  An index greater than 100 indicates that the area has a higher likelihood to watch college basketball on TV than the national average.  For example, those areas with an index of 116 are 16% or more likely to watch college basketball on television than the national average.

Of the Top 4 seeds, Syracuse, NY, has the largest population (650k), lowest share of population 25+ with a college degree (26%), and the oldest median age (38).  Durham-Chapel Hill, NC, has the highest 2009 unemployment rate (11%), while Lexingt0n-Fayette, KY, has the highest population density.

Lawrence, Kansas, comes out smallest, most educated, youngest, lowest unemployment, and lowest population density.  I knew I picked the University of Kansas for a good reason, even if Obama picked KU too.

Then again, my Illini are playing the NIT this year so I’m not personally vested in an NCAA outcome. Well… other than the fervent prayer that the Final Four features Anybody-But-Duke.  Old habits are hard to break.


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