A month ago, Valentine’s Day caused there to be a whole lot of love in the air. But with March comes madness in the form of college basketball teams and their dedicated fans.
CrossFit Durham, nestled within a five-miles radius of collegiate powerhouses Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, can’t help but know a thing or two about college basketball’s most intense time of year. In fact, the Box has incorporated the madness into the gym in the form of an in-house bracket challenge.
“Three or four years ago we started making it official to try and get as many people involved as we could, especially here in the college basketball mecca of the country,” said Dave Rubin, the owner of CrossFit Durham.
North Carolina State and North Carolina Central, who will play for a 16 seed this week, are also local schools.
A tournament bracket is a tree diagram that represents the series of games to be played during, in this case, the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament.
For this tournament in particular, it’s a long-standing tradition for groups of people to come together and make their best individual predictions of the outcomes of each game — a competition within a competition. At the conclusion of the tournament, the person whose bracket is most accurate wins.
Following ‘Selection Sunday,’ when the 64 teams who have qualified for the tournament are announced, people flock to fill out their brackets.
At CrossFit Durham they use the free bracket format on CBSSports.com. “It’s easy to keep track, I don’t have to do any extra work other than trying to hustle everybody to fill their brackets out. Whatever their deadline is, is the one we use,” said Rubin.
Tipoff of the tournament’s first official game, which falls on March 16 this year, is the standard deadline to have brackets submitted for competition. Other sites, like the official NCAA website or ESPN.com, offer brackets as well.
“We’re in a huge college basketball area so everyone around here is thinking about it,” said Rubin.
With so much hoops action going on in the Box’s backyard, competition comes natural to its athletes, who are often alums or graduate students at the universities.
“We also get so many grad students from other universities, so you see a lot of people with different allegiances because they came from somewhere else as an undergrad and then they come to this area as a grad student, or as a doctor or something, and then they get caught up in Duke basketball because it’s quite an experience over here,” explained Rubin.
The Box adds extra incentive to the bracket challenge by offering the winner a prize every year as well. In the past, Rubin has given the winner a free month of membership, but this year those who have accepted the challenge are competing for a brand new pair of OSO Barbell collars.
“We have about 50 people registered with brackets out of roughly 300 or so with all of our different programs, Coaches and community members attached to us,” he added.
Rubin said the community building aspect of the traditional bracket challenge is what leads him to host one at not only CrossFit Durham, but at the three other local gyms he owns.
“This is another way to get members interacting about something other than CrossFit,” he said. “A lot of them will hook up for the games, so it’s a way for us to build up community. Even if it’s not a huge level of participation necessarily, for the group of people who are into it, it’s nice community building for them — and some bragging rights.”
Rubin, who has no personal affiliation to any of the local schools, is married to a Duke alumna and current Duke employee — so he predicts they’ll be crowned the national champion on April 3, when the March madness comes to an end.