The first round of the 2018 March Madness championship kicks off Thursday with the Oklahoma Sooners facing the Rhode Island Rams. Last year, the North Carolina Tar Heels triumphed over the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 71-65.
As millions of viewers gear up to watch and dissect each game, with many joining in office bracket wagers, it's easy to forget that these are college students vying for glory and not NBA stars playing for millions. In many respects, these student-athletes are leaders for their universities on one of sport's biggest stages.
One of those viewers, for instance, is former U.S. President Barack Obama, who's made it a tradition to release his predictions for the NCAA tournament. "Just because I have more time to watch games doesn't mean my picks will be better," he wrote on Twitter, "but here are my brackets this year: https://go.obama.org/2018bracket."
It's no surprise, of course, that these athletes need to be strong mentally as well as physically to achieve success on-court. People with a winner's mindsetare emotionally intelligent and feel comfortable being uncomfortable, according to Graham Betchart, a mental coach for three top NBA draft picks.
Still, there's immense pressure to bring home that final win, and with a total of 68 schools partaking in the tournament, the competition is stiff. CNBC Make It spoke with Jeff Janssen, who runs North Carolina's Janssen Sports Leadership Center, to discuss the four major qualities that make for a March Madness championship team: commitment, confidence, composure and character.
Janssen, who has a background in sports psychology, estimates that his programs have helped over 26,000 athletes via the 20 leadership academies he runs across the country in the last 13 years.