March Madness, that exciting annual showcase of collegiate athleticism and fantastic three-week distraction from work, is upon us once again. If you’re like me and it’s really the only time you pay attention to college basketball, filling out a bracket is largely an exercise in picking which school name/mascot/city/state you like better. Except, of course, for your one favorite team, who you irrationally have going all the way. Everyone has that one team.
The map below, assembled by Facebook’s data science group, charts those allegiances for every county in the U.S. based on which teams Facebook users "liked" most. The results are surprisingly varied--and revealing.
Some teams, we see, are nationally known brands. Most of North Carolina went for the UNC Tar Heels, sure, but chunks of Carolina blue can be found scattered throughout the country, all the way across to the West Coast. Smaller schools register smaller, local pockets of fans in their areas.
In the Midwest, where college basketball thrives, fandom is neatly partitioned by state lines--as Deadspin points out, only one county in Illinois didn’t turn out for the Fighting Illini, and in Indiana not a single county in the entire state went for someone other than the Hoosiers. That’s loyalty. In the South, where basketball is just that thing that happens in between football seasons (and where many big schools’ teams don’t make it to the tournament), the favorites are much more haphazard.
But while there are 64 teams admitted to the Big Dance, you’ll only find 51 different colors on this map. As it turns out, 17 schools in this year’s bracket, including Temple, Notre Dame, and Saint Louis, weren’t best loved by any county at all.
[Read Deadspin’s very thorough take here.]