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Inside ESPN’s Tournament Challenge Open

Who are you picking?

This year’s Tournament Challenge Marathon on ESPN opened with a unique and fun video, tying every element of choosing your bracket together. Director Rico Labbe’s vision for the project included connecting with every viewer to feel just what the tournament means.

“We wanted to capture how the process goes,” said Labbe. “The madness is individual, it’s communal, it’s viral and mythical. All of those things put together make a very interesting mix, but that’s what the tournament is all about.”

It was a team effort all around, including a number of people from ESPN’s Creative Content Unit: Julie McGlone (coordinating producer), Bryan Rourke (producer), Amanda Paschal and Amanda Braunlich (production coordinators), Warren Wolcott (editor), Tom Beers (after effects design), Brian Arndt (freelance writer), as well as ESPN’s Executive Vice President and Executive Editor, Studio Production, Norby Williamson, Tom Archer (coordinating producer) and Kate Leonard (director, multimedia sponsorship integration), for making this possible.

The concept? Anybody but Duke.

“In any story, we wanted to run a theme throughout,” Labbe shared. “We needed a villain, and it just happened to be Duke. We hear about Duke all the time. They’re the team everyone loves to hate.”

The opening includes ESPN analysts and former college greats Jalen Rose (Michigan) and Jay Williams, with Williams, a former Duke Blue Devil, narrating the piece.

We asked Labbe who he was picking to win.

“Ironically, I’m a huge Duke fan,” he said with laughter. “I don’t know that they’ll win the whole thing, but I’m pulling for them.”

The Tournament Challenge Marathon began today, March 12, and continues through Tuesday, March 13, at 7 p.m., bringing fans 25 consecutive hours of bracket analysis and discussion. Fans can submit up to 25 entries each for the Men’s and Women’s tournaments at or the ESPN Tournament Challenge App for iOS and Android.

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