10 Reasons March Madness Is the Best Postseason in America
When it comes to postseason play, there is absolutely nothing that compares to college basketball’s version.
The NCAA Tournament is a mystifying spectacle that routinely consumes non-watchers and turns them into hardcore tournament-followers.
There are reasons why college students skimp on study time for their final exams to watch a ballgame that doesn’t pertain to their university. There are reasons why office-employees live-stream the games from their desktops when it jeopardizes their employment.
Simply put: There are reasons why we call it “March Madness.”
Number of Contestants
There are 68 teams that qualify for the “Big Dance." 68!
No other North American professional sports league has even that many contestants to begin with.
This is great because it spreads out the playing field and leaves plenty of room for dramatics.
Some may use the “more is less” argument here and note how the lower level of overall talent deters from the spirit of competition. However, those who do, are forgetting that there is no other type of postseason play that guarantees 83 different matchups.
It's true that not all contests promise to be competitive, but it does assure watchers plenty of variety.
Frequency of Games
“March Madness” is the perfect way to describe the second and third rounds of the tournament.
Forty-eight games are played over the course of just four days, and with multiple contests being aired at the same time, viewers are free to watch the game of their choice.
Not only are there plenty of options to choose from, but also very little wait time in between.
Since four different networks consecutively run games, one can easily distract themselves for 20 minutes by switching to another channel without compromising the integrity of their competitive mood.
"One and Done" Format
Similar to the National Football League, March Madness demands postseason perfection from its champion.
Not only is this format good for the game, but also viewers as well.
By maximizing the pressure of every game and increasing the importance of every possession, it automatically thrusts its’ student-athletes into the biggest game of their careers.
This structure is also audience-friendly since it doesn’t subjugate anyone into watching a matchup that might have already proven to be a blowout.
A professional sport league doesn't always feature its two best teams in the championship round.
This means that instead of matching up the two best teams, they are merely pitting the best of each conference.
Not in college basketball.
The beauty of the selection committee is how they randomly allocate and assign each team to a different region.
This means that a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference could open the tournament against another university from any conference in the nation, and still end up playing an in-conference rival for the national championship.
And while it’s impossible to satisfy the traveling needs of every school, it does bring out the most passionate of fan bases—something which translates extremely well onto television.
Story of Cinderella
Although Cinderella left this year’s dance a bit early, her appearance was all that some of us needed to see.
Not only is it common for lower-seeded teams to make an extended run during the tournament, but also almost expected.
This year seemed promising after Lehigh University and Norfolk State won their opening round matchups against second-seeded teams.
It’s this kind of drama that draw viewers who have no affiliation with any school, yet find themselves cheering and screaming from the top of their lungs.
If it weren’t for these Cinderella teams, each contest would appear scripted and there would be no hope for a fairytale ending.
Intrigue of Subplots
The storylines and subplots of the NCAA Tournament differ drastically from those of the professional level.
Aside from the high emotions that stem from competition, there are also connections that extend beyond the court.
The Elite Eight matchup between the Louisville Cardinals and Florida Gators saw Billy Donovan coach against his former mentor, Rick Pitino.
The two shared a storied past and connected relationship. Not only was Donovan a player for Pitino during his college days, but also an assistant for him at Kentucky.
Roy Williams, head coach of the University of North Carolina, spent 15 years with Kansas, a program that eliminated his Tar Heels on Sunday.
It’s past connections like these that make present-day matchups so intriguing and give them additional weight.
For some, the best part of the whole tournament happens before it’s over.
Trying to fill in the perfect bracket is not only alluring, but also a great way to pass time.
You should never have to use an eraser and the only mistake you can possibly make is to fill out two identical brackets.
Even when the team you cheer for is knocked out of contention, you’re still invested because of your selections.
Whether you pick against yourself for personal satisfaction, or against others for money, it is an exciting way to add intrigue and bragging rights to a nation-wide sporting event.
Plus, the President does it.
Contrasting Emotional Investments
There’s no other postseason competition that internally pits viewers against themselves like this one does.
I personally believe they call it “March Madness” because the outcomes make you mad at your bracket.
Everyone wants to see his or her sheet finish as close as it can to perfection; however, this is where it becomes a little tricky.
The overwhelming majority of all bracketeers will have their bracket busted in one way or another.
This begs the question: Do I root for my picks? Or do I root for the team I like? Or do I root against the team I hate?
These conflicting interests are exactly what make watching the entirety of the tournament so painful, yet enjoyable.
And no matter the outcome, fans always seem to get a satisfying ending.
It’s no secret that collegiate sports fans have a passion that is unmatched.
You can feel them at the event. You can hear them through your television sets.
They are loud.
On a neutral site, contrasting team colors fill the area to put on a color spectacle that can’t be seen where there’s home-court advantage.
Whether they’re students, alumni, or there through association; somehow, someway, fans find a reason to cheer for or against an university they care about only at this time of the year.
This becomes more and more evident as the field of 68 narrows down—which in turn gives the remaining teams a new contingent of supporters.
It’s this kind of fickle loyalty and bandwagon jumping that epitomizes America’s belief in the freedom of choice.
Without March Madness, what would we remember this month for? NFL free agency? The NBA trade deadline?
Sure, Peyton Manning is now with the Denver Broncos, and Dwight Howard was supposed to get traded, but nothing compares to societal mark that the NCAA Tournament leaves.
The layoff between the Super Bowl and the beginning of the NBA and NHL playoffs leaves an extended period of time where fans are craving for some kind of postseason action.
What they get from this tournament is a playoff system in its purest, most enjoyable, most connectable and amateurish form.
Whether you follow the college basketball regular season or not is irrelevant.
All that matters is that you take a seat and embrace this three week period of madness before it marches on.