Beginning last Thursday, men (and women) everywhere hit pause on their lives to press play on March Madness, gravitating to mobile screens more than ever before to watch as would-be Cinderellas challenged top-ceded teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Consumers considerably increased their access to sports content across web, smartphone, and tablet screens this year, according to analytics firm comScore.

Day one of the NCAA Tournament saw a 79 percent spike in sports-related content compared to the average of the previous three opening-day Thursdays, but tablet and smartphone usage showed the highest gain over previous years. Sports content consumption on tablets shot up 94 percent on Thursday, and consumption on smartphones jumped 83 percent.

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Altogether, 20 percent of sports content devoured during the first two days of the NCAA Tournament was enjoyed by way of smartphone or tablet.

What’s happening here? Does the data tell the story of a subset of the population so hungry for basketball that they can’t go without a single minute of the action? Or, is this just another sign that we’re living in modern mobile times when smartphones and tablets have given us a way to remain connected at all times? comScore’s calculations indicate that the former is the case, for now, as nearly double the percentage of sports content was consumed on tablets and smartphones as other content categories on the same days.

These massive mobile sports consumption figures certainly weren’t hurt by the fact that NCAA offers all 67 March Madness games live on iPhone, iPad, and Android to ravenous basketball fans. But these hyper-connected sports enthusiasts are just the early adopters of a trend in the making.

“When the content is highly time-sensitive — such as with news or sports scores — there’s a greater likelihood of it being consumed on-the-go via mobile devices,” comScore senior director Debbie Bradley said.

Photo credit: Mario Sixtus/Flickr