One of the many beauties of March Madness is the classic Cinderella story. Watching an underestimated, less publicized team defeat goliath after goliath en route to a deep run in the NCAA tournament may be the most enjoyable aspect of the annual basketball battle royale.
That is, unless your school is on the receiving end of David’s sling.
When K-State lost to La Salle in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Wildcat fans had to stomach the fact that their team was the one standing in the way of Cinderella’s run. With the excitement and pageantry of a 68-team tournament comes the upsets and disheartening finishes to many teams’ seasons. This year was simply K-State’s turn to be on the wrong end of the underdog story.
Does a second-round exit properly reflect the quality of this K-State team or its season? No, but that’s how the cookie crumbles with March Madness. The purpose of the NCAA tournament is not to determine accurately what the best team in the country is, it’s to provide a three-week-long whirlwind of entertainment that captures television sets across the country.
The chaos of the NCAA tournament may be its most captivating attraction, but what the madness adds in drama it takes away from the tournament’s credibility. Upsets are such a common occurrence in modern college basketball that it’s almost more surprising if the tournament favorites actually make it to the Final Four.
Sure, teams that had the better regular seasons are rewarded with higher seeds, but how valuable are those really? K-State played a 13-seeded team with “La Salle” printed on their jerseys, but they might as well have been playing the ’95 Bulls considering how the Explorers couldn’t miss a shot in the first half of that game.
Parity in college basketball has been expanding for years, and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Smaller schools are closing the gap with powerhouse programs, which in certain aspects is good, but it’s bad for maintaining some form of order in the postseason.
Georgetown lost to 15-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the second round of the tournament handily, and it wasn’t just a stroke of luck. The Eagles were a good team, so good in fact, that they made it to the Sweet Sixteen — a first for a 15-seed.
If the supposedly worst teams in the field of 68 are now considered dangerous, do seedings even matter? There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of benefit anymore from earning a higher seed. Low-seeded teams defeating one of the top programs used to be a rare occurrence, but now it’s a yearly expectation.
Having more evenly matched teams in the field leads to more exciting and unpredictable basketball, but it also leads to programs feeling shortchanged in the postseason. No matter how much was accomplished in the regular season, all of it can be considered a failure because of one bad matchup or performance in the tournament.
If this were college football, teams that excelled in the regular season would be playing in a single game that reflected their successes. In the NCAA tournament, nothing is given and teams are expected to overcome ridiculous odds if they want something to show for their efforts.
The BCS is one of the most despised postseason systems in sports. It lacks all the flashiness and romanticism of a playoff. But does it do an adequate job of crowning the best team in its sport as champion? I would say yes.
March Madness has become such a cluster bomb of uncertainty that it’s hard to take the whole process seriously. When the tournament consisted of fewer teams, having a successful regular season was far more rewarding.
Back in the day, making the NCAA tournament was special. Only a select group of teams got into the field and all those programs deserved to be there. It was a condensed group of quality teams and any of them could cut down the nets.
It’s the same today in terms of everyone having a legitimate opportunity to win a championship, but there’s a monumental difference between winning it all out of a group of 16 compared to a field of 68. It was once only difficult to win a title; now it seems like a nearly impossible task considering all of the factors in play.
The NCAA tournament is an entertainment-driven
postseason that has become more about generating excitement than determining
who the best team in the country is. It may make for great television ratings,
but with the prospect of any team being able to get hot and go all the way,
there’s a bit too much madness in March to be considered an accurate process
for crowning a champion.
Donald Pepoon is a sophomore in business administration. Please send comments to email@example.com.