The Real Issue with the March Madness Tournament

Written by: Ryan

Edited by: Lucas 

Visual by: Andie

In the NCAA Basketball Championship Game, the Gonzaga Bulldogs faced off against the Baylor University Bears. Leading up to what was the culmination of the month-long March Madness tournament, Gonzaga had not dropped a single game and was coming off of an overtime classic against 11th seeded UCLA. They were looking to achieve the historic accomplishment of a perfect season, a feat achieved by only 7 other teams, the most recent being the Indiana Hoosiers over 45 years ago. Unsurprisingly, they were heavily favored to win.

Baylor, on the other hand, was the underdog. Throughout the previous rounds of the tournament, they were left relatively untested, having not faced a team near the caliber of Gonzaga, and had crushed Houston in the semi-finals by 19 points. However, Baylor was predicted to keep it close against the dominant Bulldogs squad.

After Baylor jumped out to an early lead, the game never left their control. In just two and a half minutes, the Bears had built up a lead larger than Gonzaga had taken throughout their entire semi-finals matchup. Trailing through the entire game, Gonzaga’s hopes of a historic season were shattered. To everyone’s surprise, Baylor took home the trophy in dominant fashion. After being so heavily favored, how does a team on the level of Gonzaga fall short?

March Madness is iconic for these dramatic upsets and shocking blowouts, mainly due to the nature of the tournament. Every matchup, from the opening round to the championship, is decided by a single, 40-minute game. This means that early foul trouble from a star player (like Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs in the championship game) or a hot streak from an underdog team could mean a shocking upset.

The single-elimination, single-game style of NCAA sports is what creates the chaos known as March Madness. However, while some see the excitement and joy in watching titans fall to small, overlooked schools, others see it as the biggest flaw of this style of tournament. Statistically, March Madness is the least accurate when it comes to rewarding its best team. 

This is far different from professional basketball leagues such as the NBA, where, in the playoffs, each team plays a best of seven series to decide who wins. Although this format has been extraordinarily accurate, with the statistically better team winning nearly every time, it has created a predictable tournament with the winner being known from the beginning almost every season.

So, should the NCAA adopt a similar format to professional sports leagues? Many argue that the obvious answer is no. The beauty of college sports is not in the skill of the athletes or the domination of the better-funded teams. Rather, it is the incredible upsets, the David-and-Goliath moments, that keep fans watching and wanting more.

Works Cited

Jerry Palm
    Apr 6. “2021 NCAA Tournament Records by Conference: Pac-12 Shines, Big Ten Disappoints in March Madness.” CBSSports.com, 6 Apr. 2021, http://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/2021-ncaa-tournament-records-by-conference-pac-12-shines-big-ten-disappoints-in-march-madness/.

“NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Apr. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NCAA_Division_I_Men’s_Basketball_Tournament.

NCAA.com. “2021 March Madness: Complete Schedule, Dates, TV Times.” NCAA.com, NCAA.com, 6 Apr. 2021, http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/article/2021-march-madness-schedule.