Throughout time, the David and Goliath analogy has taken relevance and it is no truer presently than in the NCAA basketball tournament. With 32 teams receiving automatic bids and only five traditional power 5 conferences, conference tournament winners from many small Division I conferences make the “Big Dance.” For most mid-major winners, the 10 to 16 seed range is the opportunity to play the “big boys” and pull off the beloved upset.
Now these upsets aren’t a new thing, but the rise of brackets and the Cinderella stories of Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond in 2011have seen the beginning of a dramatic increase of upsets with a total of nine first round upsets occurring last year. The first round of March Madness is one of the most exciting times in sports because of the close games and the Florida Gulf Coasts of basketball pulling off the unthinkable. Although this has been great for the viewership and draw of the tournament, think about the purpose of the tournament. The NCAA Tournament is designed to find the best team in the nation to crown it the champion.
In college football, the playoff is designed to take the four best teams in the nation and find the best out of them; this usually provides some of the best football of the year. Fans are awarded some of the best basketball of the season when March rolls around, but do we really want the best team to prevail.
According to ESPN’s archive, there has been an increase of 10 million brackets created on its Tournament Challenge since 2013. During that time, the tourney has seen up to nine first-round upsets between the 10 and 15 seeds. These upsets give drama to the tournament because we love to see the “little guy” win.
As the tradition of filling out a bracket, or 25, has grown, fans have started rooting for more upsets because it aligns with the outcome on their bracket. In rooting for those mid-major teams to upset the higher seed, fans have started to show that the Cinderella story is more important than the top teams competing against each other.
Think about this, on Selection Sunday we debate how team A deserves to be in the tournament over team B and vice versa; once the basketball begins, we don’t want team A or B to win but a team that was able to get past other small schools in a three or four game span.
With only five first-round upsets this year, the chance for a Cinderella story is unlikely. So do you stop watching March Madness after this weekend because the David isn’t in the tourney anymore?