Is March Madness An Unfair Way To Crown A Champion? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
“How does your bracket look?” is a question that many are asking their friends and co-workers on this Monday morning now that March Madness has begun and upsets are plentiful. The field that started at 68 teams has already been narrowed as some of the nation’s best teams saw a season’s worth of work go up in smoke over one 40-minute game. That’s because “March Madness” is the most exciting way for fans to enjoy a tournament, but the most unfair way of crowning a champion in all of North American sports.
Sports fans are accustomed to seeing upsets in the boxing ring and on the tennis court where athletes are matched up one on one. In most team sports, however, a tournament setting is atypical and is not put together as haphazardly as March Madness is as teams from across the country are thrown together after never seeing each other on anything more than a highlight reel.
When putting together a “bracket” of teams, in this case of 68 teams, the difference between the top half (seeds one through eight) should progressively grow as you reach the bottom half (seeds nine through sixteen). Yet, every year in the early rounds a lower seed upsets a higher seed, in fact, there are odds placed on how many fourth and fifth seeds will lose in the first round, a place where the difference between the two teams should provide a large talent difference between the two teams.
Why is that?
Because half the field are teams that won automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments over the last week or two, and not by winning their conference’s regular season title over the three-month season. That means teams like Georgetown University was not the best team in the Big East this year, but did have one good week of games and entered the tournament with a high level of confidence.
By contrast teams that already had a good season knew they were getting into the field and didn’t need to try as hard in a tournament that often forces them to play four games in four days to win a meaningless conference championship. In short, the field of teams the selection committee is seeding into their brackets are not the best 68 teams in the country.
Because of this unusual selection process, there are too many teams that know winning six games over three weekends is not in the cards for them, and their first-round matchup becomes all they care about. Look at a team like Rutgers University, who won their first tournament game in 38 years last week, but isn’t a team that would win a national championship even if they played in the tournament 10,000 times. While they might be one of the nation’s best 68 teams, by watering down the field with their presence all for the sake of television, their one win ruins one quarter of the bracket since the teams that the higher seeds will play in later rounds are no longer the best teams.
Fans like March Madness upsets when they predict them, not when their brackets are burned to a crisp after one round or when it happens to their alma mater, which is when they call for their coach’s head. Upsets are great for television ratings in the early round, but have been proven year after year to hurt ratings in the later rounds when Cinderella crashes the Sweet 16 and the better known, more talented schools are no longer vying for a title.
I hope everyone enjoyed filling out their brackets last week and have a least a fighting chance to win their office pool … and for the rest of you who are no longer watching March Madness, remember that next year you will do everything all over again, but when you do, ask yourself this question: What am I rooting for when I watch the tournament? Because if you want upsets, they are bound to happen, but if you can predict them, are they truly upsets?
What I want is the best teams dueling for a title, something that the NCAA Tournament can no longer provide since it is clear they are more interested in creating potential upsets in the first round than giving the best teams a chance to win and advance, which makes this the most unfair method of crowing a champion in all of North American sports, but also one that we will never be able to take our eyes off of every spring.
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Is March Madness An Unfair Way To Crown A Champion? | TooAthletic.com
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