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5 March Madness horror stories

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual men’s basketball tournament kicks off Tuesday. And while betting on brackets and watching the 68 teams whittle down to a Final Four can certainly prove entertaining, it’s not always just fun and games.

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Here are some March Madness nightmares to watch out for:

1. A $24,000 bracket bruising

Bryan Armen Graham entered a March Madness bracket pool run by a friend in his hometown for years. He told The Guardian that in 2008, the total pot reached enormous heights -- 48,800. The winner would take home half of that -- $24,400. 

When Graham and his significant other moved into first place with just the championship game left, another member of the pool called to make him an offer. He told Graham he’d be willing to split the winner’s $24, 000 if he took first (a Kansas victory) if Graham promised to do the same should Memphis take home the championship, cementing his bracket dominance.

But Graham didn’t take the deal and ended up dropping to 24th place, out of the money entirely after Kansas lost.

2. Fake Final Four tickets

One North Carolina woman found herself out $1,480 after purchasing a pair of phony NCAA Final Four tickets on Craigslist, Fox6Now reported in 2015. She wasn’t the only person to fall victim to that particular scammer, who was purportedly posing as a doctor based out of Milwaukee. The physician’s office told the Better Business Bureau it had received dozens of call that week from customers who had bought tickets that never actually surfaced.

Tickets scams, in general, are fairly common at major sporting events. To avoid them, the BBB recommends sticking to reliable sellers registered with the National Association of Ticket Brokers, checking a vendor’s guarantee policy and using a credit card, which offers better fraud protections than cash or debit cards.

3. Office pool leads to legal woes

John Bovery of New Jersey used to run an office pool at the Wall Street firm where he worked. It was the typical football squares, NCAA tourney brackets, etc. But his $837,000 purse with more than 8,000 entrants came crashing down in 2010 when cops started investigating an alleged mafia member with ties to the pool.

Participants in NCAA tournament pools are rarely prosecuted, but there’s a strong argument that these contests violate both federal and state laws, so it’s wise to keep that in mind as you fill out your bracket.

4. Gambling addiction

To some people, betting on brackets may feel like harmless fun. But others may find themselves fueling a gambling addiction. One former New York stockbroker outlined the scope of his March Madness woes to ESPN back in 2013.

His troubles included “tricking his parents into investing $30,000 into his ‘business,’ when the money really was going to bookies,” columnist Rick Reilly reported. The stockbroker ultimately got help after attending Gamblers Anonymous. Those similarly suffering from a gambling addiction can consider looking for a support group online.

5. The health impact

The first time Betsy Fisher filled out an NCAA tournament bracket was her last. She was elated when her teams were advancing, but when they started to lose, she went into a funk, finally deciding the whole experience is just bad for her health.

“Now the weekend. Games on all day long. I can’t watch. I can barely ask my husband about the games,” she wrote on her blog in 2012. “I’m depressed that I’m not going to WIN. By the end of Sunday, I make a pan of brownies. Not only do I lick the bowl. I eat 3 before they have even cooled and eat another for good measure before bed.”

Other things to look out for:

Your boss knows you're watching games at work.

Many March Madness games happen during the day (it would take quite a while to air the whole tournament if every game was in prime time). For many college hoops fanatics, this leads to a conundrum -- miss a game or watch at work?

Companies aren’t totally clueless that this is happening, as people have reported about company-wide emails warning people about Internet connection issues due to too many people tuning in on their PCs. If you’re going to watch, tread lightly. You don’t want to get fired for watching a first round match-up.

No one is getting anything done. 

As a worker, you might not care about the occasional day where you don’t get much done, but your boss probably does. If you’re a business owner, March Madness can be downright disastrous. For several years, experts have estimated companies lose well over $1 billion to lack of productivity during March Madness, as employees fill out brackets and stream the games. Last year, job-placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated losses would reach $1.9 billion.

A love of basketball could get you hacked. 

Cyber criminals know you’re going to start searching the Internet for bracket-building tools and information about the best teams, so they build malware around popular search terms, according to security site PC World. Just because something comes up in your search results doesn’t mean you should click on it -- don’t open attachments or links from sites or email addresses you don’t recognize, even if they’re related to your favorite team.

A ticket but nowhere to sleep.

There’s nothing more exciting than your team making its way through the tournament, especially if they end up in the Final Four or championship game. Why not celebrate with a spur-of-the-moment trip to the finals? Sure, it’ll be expensive, but you might be able to find a good deal. Be careful, though -- it’s not unheard of for people to lose money to a fake hotel offer during a major sporting event.

The BBB suggests asking for the name, address and phone number of a hotel in any offer you are considering and calling directly to verify that the room exists. You should also “check the hotel’s website or a reputable travel site to be sure that the location is convenient for getting to and from the arena,” it said.

Your ex could use March Madness against you in court.

When you’re in the middle of a divorce, nothing is off the table. As one North Carolina law firm highlighted on its site, excess drinking and gambling during March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day -- which falls in the middle of the tournament this year -- could be used in court to affect alimony payments.

March Madness' top seeds have been named, and there's a surprise

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The March Madness selection committee didn't wait around to make its first controversial decision of Selection Sunday. The four No. 1 seeds in the tournament are Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and ... Oregon.

Oregon is the big surprise to college basketball fans, many of whom penciled in Michigan State as a No. 1. The Spartans had a 28-5 record and won the Big Ten Conference tournament just hours before the bracket was released. 

>> RELATED: Leaked NCAA tournament bracket turns out to be true

But Oregon was bolstered by a 14-4 Pac-12 campaign and the second-toughest schedule in the country. Michigan State's schedule ranked 79th.

Being a No. 1 seed in March Madness is about more than just bragging rights. A top seed has never lost its first round matchup, largely because the No. 1 seeds play some of the worst teams in the Big Dance. 

>> RELATED: 2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket

And in the 31 years the tournament has been seeded this way, a No. 1 seed has been nearly twice as likely to make the Final Four as a No. 2.

Of the four No. 1 seeds, the committee chose Kansas as the overall top team, meaning in the committee's eyes, it's the best team in the country.

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On the whole though, the four No. 1 seeds aren't as strong as we're used to seeing. The four teams have the most combined regular season losses in the history of March Madness.

This video includes clips from Oregon Athletics and images from Getty Images.

Michael Phelps joins 'Curtain of Distraction' complete with Speedo, medals

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Michael Phelps is still making his mark on the sports world, but it’s not in the pool this time. 

Michael Phelps joined Arizona State's "Curtain of Distraction" at Thursday night's ASU game against the Oregon State Beavers.

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Phelps came out wearing a gold T-shirt and black pants, but quickly lost both, eventually showing off six-pack abs, a Speedo and his gold Olympic medals stacked around his neck, ESPN reported.

The "Curtain of Distraction" is a group of students from Arizona State University who try to distract opposing teams during free throws.

And distraction may be Phelps' middle name. Oregon State's Stephen Thompson Jr. missed both of his free throws, The Washington Post reported.

The Sun Devils went on to win 86-68.

Police officer's impromptu national anthem performance goes viral

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When a snowstorm prevented the scheduled national anthem performer from arriving at a college basketball game in time, organizers scrambled to find a replacement.

They didn’t have to look far.

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West Virginia University police officer Carlton Smith stepped in to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the West Virginia-Kansas game at the WVU Coliseum on Jan. 12.

He didn’t have time to warm up or practice, but he still blew away the crowd with his stellar performance.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, it wasn’t Smith’s first public performance or his first time attempting the national anthem. He’s performed it live at area sporting events. His golden voice earned him a ticket to Hollywood on “American Idol.”

Still, Smith says he always gets nervous before performing, and the anthem is a difficult song to pull off successfully.

Smith’s performance has gone viral, and has been seen over a half-million times on YouTube.

Kid with winning NCAA bracket donates Xbox One to charity

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Sam Holtz is the 12-year-old boy from Illinois who made headlines this week after it was revealed that his NCAA bracket had tied for best in the ESPN.com tournament challenge.

To put that in perspective, there were a total of 11.57 million entries, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Holtz’s accomplishment was special, especially for a young fan.

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But it was his age that created a problem when it came to claiming the official prize. The contest rules stated that participants needed to be 18 or older to be eligible for the grand prize of a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to the 2015 Maui Invitational. While Holtz had used his father’s email address to enter the contest (with his father’s consent) the 12-year-old was ineligible to receive any official prizes.

When Best Buy heard about the predicament, the company stepped up and presented Holtz with a $1,000 store gift card.

Holtz bought an Xbox One for himself, and with the leftover funds, donated a game system to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The middle school student said he chose that particular charity because of his cousin Alec, who received a wish from the foundation and who eventually overcame his life-threatening condition.

Sam Holtz is 12 years old and finished tied for first place out of 11.57 million entries in ESPN’s Tournament...Posted by Best Buy on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lauren Hill, teen battling brain cancer, dies

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An Indiana teen who inspired many as she took to the basketball court as she battled brain cancer has died.

Lauren Hill, 19,  made national headlines in November when she played her first NCAA basketball game for Mount Saint Joseph University in Ohio, in what was called "One Last Game, WRTV reported.

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Hill was told that the aggressive cancer would take her life by Christmas.

According to the Sporting News, Hill was diagnosed in December 2013 with DIPG.  She wanted to play one last game, or her first college game before the illness would take away her balance and basketball ability.

She played what was supposed to be her last game on Nov. 2 in front of a packed house.  The game had been rescheduled from mid-November to early in the month as her illness got worse.  The game was originally an away game against Hiram College, but the NCAA and Hiram College agreed to move it up and to Xavier University, to handle the expected crowds, the Sporting News reported.

Hill started and scored the game's first and last baskets.  She was able to appear in a few other games, but left the court and was named an honorary coach on Dec. 19.  She was also named to an all-conference team and received an honorary doctorate, the Sporting News reported earlier this year.

Off the hardwood, Hill helped raise more than a million dollars in her Layup4Lauren fundraiser, WRTV reported.

She recently set a new goal of raising $2.2 million for research and  treatment of DIPG, WTHR reported.

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/lauren-hill-teen-battling-brain-cancer-dies/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/lauren-hill-teen-battling-brain-cancer-dies.js?header=false&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Lauren Hill, teen battling brain cancer, dies" on Storify]

Duke survives thriller against Wisconsin to win NCAA title

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Two offensive powerhouses collided, but only one was left standing. The Duke Blue Devils have defeated the Wisconsin Badgers to win the NCAA Championship.

The Blue Devils beat the Badgers 68-63 led by a strong performance from Tyus Jones, who dropped 23 points and hit 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. He scored 19 of Duke's 37 second half points.

With the victory, coach Mike Krzyzewski's young squad captures the school's fifth NCAA men's basketball title — all under his direction. That ties the school with Indiana and North Carolina for third on the all-time list behind Kentucky with eight and UCLA with 11.

>> NCAA Championship: Fans, foes react to Duke's win

That's not to take anything away from Wisconsin. The Badgers rolled through earlier rounds with stellar performances from breakout sharpshooter Sam Dekker and Player of the Year front-runner Frank Kaminsky.

Plus, years from now, this season's Badgers class will likely still be remembered as the team that stunned the basketball world by spoiling the Kentucky Wildcats' chances at a perfect season in the Final Four.

>> PHOTOS: Duke wins 2015 NCAA title

As for the Blue Devils, the team swept through the NCAA Tournament with high-powered offense, led by a strong backcourt and one of the most dominate players in the paint, Jahlil Okafor. 

But, surprisingly, it was also their tough defense that really helped them coast to the championship.

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The victory also marks the first time Coach K and the Blue Devils have ever knocked off a No. 1 seed to win the NCAA title. Over the past three decades, the team failed four times in the same situation.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Wake / CC BY 3.0.

NCAA Championship: Fans, foes react to Duke's win

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Duke defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 68-63 on Monday to win their fifth national title in men's basketball.

Click here or scroll down to see how celebrities, fans and foes reacted on social media.

>> PHOTOS: Duke wins 2015 NCAA title

>> STORY: Duke survives thriller against Wisconsin to win NCAA title

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These coaches are no strangers to the Final Four

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After a wild weekend of nail-biters, overtime thrillers, a borderline unhealthy amount of screen time for avid fans and general, well, March Madness, the NCAA tournament Final Four is set.

Three No. 1 seeds will vie for the national title: Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke — and the one underdog that has pretty much busted most of America's tournament brackets: No. 7 seed Michigan State.

Each of these teams has different strengths: Kentucky has the best defense in the league, whereas Wisconsin has the most efficient offense, just to use one example. But they all have at least one thing in common: coaches with great legacies, especially when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

All totaled, teams coached by Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari and Bo Ryan have made an astonishing 25 trips to the Final Four.

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Three of the four are listed in the top 20 among coaches for Final Four appearances, nestled alongside some prestigious company like John Wooden and Rick Pitino, the latter falling short of his eighth appearance after an overtime loss Sunday.

With Duke's victory over Gonzaga, Coach K. also cements himself right next to Wooden at the top of chart.

The two coaching greats are now tied for the most Final Fours among head coaches in NCAA history with 12 each.

As for Coach K.'s next opponent, Michigan State's Tom Izzo isn't doing too shabby himself.

As USA Today's Chris Chase points out, since 2000, Izzo's Spartans have stormed through the first four rounds of the tournament more times than any other coach in college basketball — at a rate of just about every other year.

However, where he goes from there is a bit suspect. Excluding his championship run in 2000, "Izzo’s teams are 1-6 in the Final Four." So, Chase wonders, "Is it fair to say that Izzo’s teams have had Final Four quantity, not quality?"

But chief among the coaches remaining in this year's Big Dance is arguably the most the gifted recruiter in college basketball — and he visits our TV screens in April yet again.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has lead the Wildcats to the Final Four in four of the last five years. And, he does it usually with an entirely new cast of top talent, as most guys enter the NBA draft after a year of college ball.

As Business Insider points out, "Calipari is basically playing a team full of NBA rookies, which is just far too much talent for most schools to compete against."

We'll see which two of these coaches will move on to this year's championship game when Wisconsin battles Kentucky and Michigan State takes on Duke in Indianapolis next Saturday.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Wake / CC BY 3.0.

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