Michigan's March Madness Bandwagon, as Mapped by Facebook

Spoiler: Michigan wins ... the popularity game, at least.
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Facebook (click to enlarge)

March Madness is drawing to a close. Now that we have four teams left standing (and shooting, and dribbling) to fight for the win in this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, Facebook has marked the occasion the best way it knows how: with data. (Nerds.) Above, according to Facebook's Data Science Team, are the fan distributions for the four teams remaining in the competition: Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse, and Wichita State.

So, yeah: Whoa, Michigan! There's a lot of yellow on this map, and it's widely distributed across the country. The chart is based on likes to each team's Facebook page (as of March 18, the start of the tournament, more than 1 million Facebook users had liked one of those pages). And the results mapped here are broken down by county. 

With that in mind, compare the Final Four map to the one Facebook created for the Sweet Sixteen, which found Michigan fandom concentrated where you'd expect it to be (most of Michigan, save for pockets loyal to MSU) and also where you might not expect it to be (pockets of, among other states, California, Colorado, and Wyoming). But not, you know, washing the nation in yellow:

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Facebook (click to enlarge)

We are, it seems, a nation of fair-weather fans (when it comes to March Madness, at least). Our allegiances change as circumstances change. It's always been that way -- and the whole structure of a tournament, of course, encourages fans to funnel their enthusiasms toward the teams that win. The difference now is that our fickleness, whether it's natural or structural or both, can now -- like so much else -- be tracked. And then presented back to us in a colorful chart.

Facebook has many more March Madness maps where the two above came from. You can find more charts -- of top-seed fandom distributions, of conference-based fandom distributions, of Cinderella team fandom distributions, and of rivalry distributions -- here

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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