The NCAA Tournament is in full swing, with 16 teams still chasing after a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta and a National Championship trophy.
But at Natalie McLaughlin's household, the race is on for a different set of prizes, including a family trophy and a trip to the winner's favorite restaurant.
That's because for about 18 years, McLaughlin, Community Financial's Senior Education Partnership Coordinator, and her family have participated in their own NCAA Tournament pool as a way to bring each other closer together through their shared love of college hoops. A total of 17 people filled out brackets this year:
“My husband designed the family pool as a way to engage our daughter when she was about eight,” McLaughlin explained. “She was frustrated we were watching as much basketball as we did. So, Jeff thought if she could pick the game winners, it might be more fun.”
The pool was exactly the spark she needed to begin enjoying the games with the rest of her family. McLaughlin's daughter is now 25 and an avid fan who follows the top teams, especially during March Madness.
There's no money involved in the pool, but the quest for family pride unites each member all the way from Florida, where McLaughlin's parents reside during the winter, to Lansing, where extended family members live. The family exchanges phone calls and emails, discussing each day's games as well as the race for the family trophy and bragging rights.
The big winner over the years has been McLaughlin's daughter, she said.
“She's won more years than any of the rest of us. When we first started doing it, she would pick by mascot or team colors, and she was very successful!”
Things have changed so far during the 2013 pool, however, with two new contenders on the rise, including another unexpected one, as McLaughlin said.
“So far the leader is my 26-year-old son-in-law, although my two-year-old niece is close behind, it's going very well for her and it's been very fun again this year.”
No doubt Natalie’s whole family will be tuned in this week to see if both Michigan teams can advance and who was skilled enough to pick the ultimate champion.
For more information about the NCAA Tournament and to view the current brackets, visit CBS Sports.com’s page.