The NCAA men's basketball tournament is now underway, and everyone with a bracket in-hand will closely follow the results until a champion is crowned on April 4 in Houston. But earning the national title means a lot more than bragging rights and prestige. Big bucks are at stake - and not just in office pools and gambling parlors. (For related reading, also check out The March Madness Effect.)
TUTORIAL: 20 Investments To Know

Whether you're a hoops fan or not , March Madness, as the 68-team tournament is known, is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. It's fun and exciting for fans, but it's also big business. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that nearly $2.5 billion is wagered each year, and television and internet audiences number about 140 million over the course of the tourney. It is also the bread and butter of many colleges, which are looking to beef up their financial hope chests.

Typically, the teams that reach the Final Four reap the highest rewards of broadcast revenues and merchandise sales. But success in the tournament also boosts the school's profile, thus, attracting top-notch players down the road, which leads to more ticket sales, venue expansions and sponsorships in future seasons. It also increases donations from alumni and fans who want to be part of a winning team.

So, that said, here is a list of this year's tournament top seeds and their off-the-court status for MVT (Most Valuable Team).


Ohio State
The Buckeyes are most synonymous with the country's football powerhouses, but the No. 1 seed in the East Region has a legitimate shot at winning its bracket, which would mean increased media exposure and a bigger share of the royalties pie. The season-to-date revenue is about $11 million, including $3.5 million in ticket sales alone. But even that won't help men's hoops gain on the school's football program, which generated $51.8 million (not including residuals from merchandise, TV spots etc.) in revenue. The Buckeyes basketball team may have to be content with a spot in the top-10 ranking for financial worth (Last season, they were listed as No. 7).

University of North Carolina
It's no surprise that the second-seeded Tar Heels are in the top tier. They've won five national titles (the most recent in 2009), reached the Final Four 18 times, and boast several impressive win streaks in the annals of college basketball. The team's only blip: it failed to make the tournament in 2010, but that didn't stop the Tar Heels from earning the No. 1 spot in financial worth: $29 million, up 12% from the previous year, according to Forbes. So far, for the 2010-11 season, North Carolina is ranked sixth in royalties of licensed merchandise sales alone by the Collegiate Licensing Company. One interesting note: of the top college contenders for financial worth, North Carolina basketball is the only team that out-paces the gridders.


The defending NCAA champion grabbed the top seed in its bracket, but still doesn't compare in revenue to its North Carolina neighbor. The Blue Devils reportedly have huge operating expenses, greater than any other college basketball team. In 2010, the team brought in about $5.6 million, which pales in comparison to some other contenders. But a repeat win in this year's tournament could change that. Also, the North Carolina tourism board lists the NCAA Tournament as one of the top events to include if you're visiting the state in March. Oh, and the Blue Devils also have Nolan Smith, the only unanimous selection to the all-Atlantic Coast Conference squad, which certainly lifts its overall chances for a fifth title.

San Diego State
This team earned the second seed in the bracket, but isn't listed anywhere as a team to be reckoned when it comes to top financial value. It reported just a little over $2.6 million in revenue in its financial reports database. But the Aztecs have two of the top frontcourt players in the nation and a deep bench, so a strong showing in the tournament could attract more top-tier players in the future, which is the ultimate goal.


The Panthers were ranked in the top 20 on the financial worth list in 2010, with a $13.2 million value and $6.5 million in profits. But the Panthers basketball program set school records in attendance (212,682), and have had 132 consecutive sell-outs (132). However, who knows what their loss over the weekend will do for their value? Pittsburgh has 23 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and made it to the Final Four just once.

Although widely known for its football success, the Gators basketball team is nothing to sneeze at. They've earned four Final Four berths in 15 tournament appearances, winning it all in 2006 and 2007. This weekend, Florida topped UCLA in the third round before advancing to the regional semifinals, no easy task. The UCLA Bruins, one of the most storied men's basketball programs in history with 11 NCAA championships, also remains among the top earners.


They may be the No. 1 seed on the court thanks in part to the highly-touted Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus), but the Jayhawks, who were fourth in value in 2010 ($24 million, $15.2 million in profit), got some stiff competition in the bracket when it comes to dollars and cents. According to Forbes, No. 4 seeded Louisville sat a notch above Kansas ($26 million) and ninth-seeded Illinois were not far behind ($20.8 million), marking a 9% jump in worth for the Illini from 2009.

Notre Dame
The No. 2 may have fared well on the hardcourt this season and in seasons past (they've made 30 NCAA Tournament appearances in all), but the Fighting Irish, who earned just above $4 million, the least of all the Big East teams, will forever be linked with college football. The team's exit this weekend probably won't do much to boost its basketball allure.

The Bottom Line
No matter who hoists the big trophy at the final buzzer, college basketball and the NCAA Tournament remains a top draw for fan and sponsors, media revenue, merchandise sales and university bragging rights. Hey, they don't call it March Madness for nothing! (For additional reading, also take a look at The Costs Of College Athletics.)

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    The Future Outlook of the Golf Industry

    The popularity of golf peaked in 2003. To regain popularity and survive, the industry is adapting to appeal to a younger generation of players.
  2. Fundamental Analysis

    Macau: Not Your Father's Gambling Destination

    Macau has given Las Vegas casinos a run for their money, but what's behind the scenes? Here's an overview of Macau's gambling industry.
  3. Entrepreneurship

    Nike and the NBA, a Perfect Duo?

    What does Nike's recent eight-year contract partnership with the NBA entail for its largest competitor Under Armor?
  4. Chart Advisor

    Traders Are Looking To Bet On Casinos

    A breakout on the chart of BJK suggests now is the time to invest in the gaming industry. We'll take a look at several stocks that could be worth a closer look.
  5. Economics

    The NBA’s Business Model

    Drawing interest domestically and abroad, the NBA has seen its popularity and revenue streams rapidly increase over the past few years.
  6. Fundamental Analysis

    Explaining the Monte Carlo Simulation

    Monte Carlo simulation is an analysis done by running a number of different variables through a model in order to determine the different outcomes.
  7. Personal Finance

    Is ESPN a Sport Monopoly?

    With such a dominant presence in sports as demonstrated through substantial ratings and a firm online presence, some may consider ESPN a sports monopoly.
  8. Economics

    3 Main Reasons Las Vegas Sports Teams Keep Folding

    Learn why a unique labor force, competition for entertainment dollars and the stigma of gambling have kept professional sports out of Las Vegas.
  9. Investing News

    Why FIFA Can't Give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar

    Learn about the high price tag for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, along with allegations of human rights abuses and bribery scandals in the bidding process.
  10. Investing

    How Millennials Will Impact The Casino Industry

    Hope for future prosperity in the gambling industry will mean catering to the preferences of a different set of consumers.
  1. Hole-In-One Insurance

    A product that offers financial protection to golf tournament ...
  2. Gamification

    Gamification describes the incentivization of people's engagement ...
  3. Merchandising

    Merchandising is any act of promoting goods or services for retail ...
  4. Hot Hand

    The notion that because one has had a string of successes, he ...
  5. Pari-Mutuel Revenues

    The income a gaming company earns from customers' mutual betting ...
  6. Advance-Deposit Wagering - ADW

    A form of gambling on the outcome of horse races in which the ...
  1. Why is Manchester United (MANU) carrying so much debt?

    The takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family beginning in 2005 saddled the historic club with substantial amounts ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are Manchester United's (MANU) largest revenue sources?

    Manchester United is one of the most popular U.K. soccer teams. Its principal stadium is Old Trafford, located in the heart ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What taxes will I pay if I win a lot of money while gambling in Las Vegas?

    Every year, thousands of people travel to gambling hot spots, such as the Nevada cities of Las Vegas and Reno, with the hope ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does Manchester United (MANU) own Old Trafford stadium?

    Old Trafford Stadium was built for and is currently still owned by Manchester United Football Club (Man Utd.). This means ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What's the biggest sports endorsement deal ever signed?

    According to Forbes, basketball player Derrick Rose holds the largest endorsement deal as of 2014; the deal is for more than ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the biggest stadium naming rights deals of all time?

    The top three stadium naming rights deals of all time were all for stadiums hosting New York City teams. The largest was ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!