DAILY DIRT: Are they serious? Gambling Awareness Month coincides with the NCAA Tournament


Was your bracket busted early? … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 901 of The Daily Dirt.

1. Is it just coincidence that March is Gambling Awareness Month AND the time of one of the heaviest-wagered U.S. athletic events, the NCAA Tournament?

Bettors are expected to LEGALLY wager somewhere between $3 billion to $15 billion on “March Madness” this year, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). That figure does not include bets with friends and family and many of the familiar office pools/brackets.
That AGA estimate also does not even include the NCAA women’s tournament, where wagering interest has tripled in recent years, according to an investopeida.com report.

More food for thought:

  • The AGA says almost 70 million Americans will make some sort of bet in the NCAA Tournament.
  • For comparison, the 2023 NFL Super Bowl — the one game/single event in U.S. sports with the heaviest betting — enticed 50 million adults to bet $16 billion. This year, with the Super Bowl fittingly played in Las Vegas, saw those figures jump to 68 million bettors wagering $23.1 billion. That’s according to ESPN.
  • The number of bettors across sports has steadily increased in recent years as regulatory legislation in 38 states and the District of Columbia has relaxed.

2. Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, specifically the men’s portion of the event…

Former coach Jay Wright continues to emerge as a budding superstar with his spot-on analysis and overall approach.  Wright, who served as the coach at Villanova from 2001 through 2022, led the Wildcats to six Big East Conference championships and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances in 21 seasons as coach. That record of success has carried over to his new role in front of a microphone for CBS/Turner Sports.

Wright offers an approach that is a welcome relief from many of the talking heads. Wright does not “talk down” to his audience and often accents a much-needed human touch that I think is greatly appreciated, judging by responses to his work.
his feelings on few.

One of Wright’s finest moments in the tournament so far involved Kentucky. Wright broke down why Kentucky is no longer the power it was only a few years ago, emphasizing why the school’s annual reliance on so many freshmen no longer works at college basketball’s highest level. Interestingly, only hours after Kentucky was ousted, Wildcats coach John Calipari said he will have to change his approach in how his team is constructed.

3. Some strange-but-true oddities heading into the MLB season:

  • Any guess on who has the most MLB hits in the post-COVID years (2021-23)? If you guessed Freddie Freeman, you would be correct. Freeman (591), Trea Turner (559) and Bo Bichette (555) lead the way.
    With 30 homers and 49 stolen bases last season, Bobby Witt Jr. became one of just six shortstops in MLB history with a 30-30 season, joining Francisco Lindor (2023), Hanley Ramírez (2008), Jimmy Rollins (2007), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Barry Larkin (1996). 
  • Garret Crochet of the Chicago White Sox will be only the ninth player in MLB history to make his first career start on Opening Day. Crochet will be the first to fill such a role since Tanner Scheppers of the Rangers in 2014 and Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers in 1981.
  • It’s a given that the Cincinnati Reds have one of the best young lineups in either league. Even more remarkable is that seven of those starters are between 22 and 27 years old. That group is headlined by future superstar Elly De La Cruz, who is 22.
  • Despite playing in home run haven Coors Field, the Colorado Rockies had just two players last season hit more than 15 homers.
    Steve Thought O’ The Day — The odds of filling out a perfect  NCAA Tournament? According to the NCAA, it is one in 120 billion. In comparison, the odds of winning a Powerball jackpot — no matter the size — is one in 292.2 million.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. His brackets were busted from the beginning.

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