Facebook declares its national champion

Facebook created its own social bracket and picked a winner based on posts and comments. Courtesy of Facebook

The NCAA tournament offers potential for a trending topic on social media with every possession.

And the folks at Facebook already have crowned a champion.

College basketball fans see little middle ground when it comes to the Duke Blue Devils. They're either loved or loathed, depending on your perspective or which end of Tobacco Road you call home. But all that passion on both sides has led to the Blue Devils taking the national title in Facebook's NCAA tournament Social Bracket.

To compile its bracket, Facebook followed the seeding set by the NCAA and matched up the teams based on their overall Facebook buzz generated over the two weeks leading up to Selection Sunday. Duke, Notre Dame, Indiana and Michigan make the Final Four, with Duke squaring off against Michigan for the "national title."

Facebook tallied the total number of posts and comments containing words related to each school’s basketball team from March 3-17. For the Social Bracket, the winner of each game was selected for having accrued a higher total number of mentions in that time frame.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were the top Cinderella team as the most-talked-about team on Facebook seeded 10th or higher. Michigan was tabbed the most improved team of the season by showing the biggest growth on its Facebook page during the season through Selection Sunday.

Cinderella made her March Madness debut in the NIT on Tuesday night as Robert Morris University upset defending national champion Kentucky in the first round, prompting a quick update on the Robert Morris Wiki page in honor of its 59-57 upset. The loss also unleashed a fury of Kentucky fried fun on Twitter.

If Tuesday's social media reaction to Kentucky's loss is any indication, this could be a breakthrough year for the NCAA tournament on social media during the action itself.

The NCAA will no longer be monitoring or trying to sanction credentialed reporters covering NCAA tournament games live when it comes to their posts on social media. The NCAA and the Associated Press Sports Editors earlier this month agreed to guidelines removing any restrictions on the number of live social media posts reporters can make during games. The NCAA had contended that continual live tweeting during games was the equivalent of providing live play-by-play coverage.

Real-time replays from all 67 NCAA tournament games up to 15 seconds long will be posted on Twitter via @MarchMadness. The first clips were tweeted during Tuesday's First Four games.

@MarchMadness was quick to update Wednesday's NCAA bracket news:


• Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model Kate Upton has a prom date. Jake Davidson, a Sherman Oaks, Calif., teenager who asked Upton to his prom via this You Tube video, got his official yes from Upton during an appearance with Davidson via phone on Wednesday’s “Today” show on NBC. Upton tweeted a “call me” message Tuesday after seeing Davidson’s plea. Davidson promoted his cause via Twitter and a Facebook fan page.

• John Cena will battle Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the Wrestlemania 29 main event April 7 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. And if this month's Men's Fitness cover story is any indication, The Rock may be up against a harder rock in Cena. The magazine's cover story, by James De Medeiros, offers an in-depth look at Cena's epic regimen and hectic schedule. The magazine hit newsstands Monday.

The issue also takes readers through one of Cena's grueling workouts during which the 10-time WWE champion and two-time World Heavyweight champion snatch-lifts a personal best of 297 pounds in what it calls Cena's "most in-depth interview ever published."

Cena told Men's Fitness that his favorite rival of all time has been The Rock.

"He tends to bring out the best in everyone. And that’s, I guess, thinking about it in retrospect, that’s why I admire him so much," Cena said. "Whether I personally like him or not is irrelevant. He brings out the best in everyone."

He also told the magazine that he never considered playing football at Springfield (Mass.) College because he was "way too small" and that he asked for his first weightlifting bench at age 12 because he "was getting beat up and picked on in school. So instead of learning karate, I figured I’d just get bigger. ... By the time I was 15 and I stepped in the high school gym, I was just stronger than everybody."

Another well-sculpted pro wrestler, TNA Impact's Jessie Godderz, who bills himself as @MrPEC_Tacular on Twitter, has gone from reality TV (CBS' "Big Brother") to trading card infamy with this entry in the latest TNA Live set. On Thursday, Godderz helped Spike TV usher in a permanent touring schedule with an appearance on TNA's "Impact" live show from Chicago. The TNA Impact tour stops in Jonesboro, Ark., on March 28 for its next live appearance on Spike.

• Damian Lillard, Iman Shumpert and Von Miller show their colors in the latest Champs Sports and adidas ad pitching the newest adicolor collection. But the two companies have gone a step further in promoting the brand with a photo hunt game featuring the three athletes showing their various hues. In the game, players will try to spot the five differences in each set of photos racing against the clock. It should provide a nice distraction at work before Thursday's NCAA action begins.

Bill Speros is an ESPN.com contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @billsperos or via email at bsperos1@gmail.com.