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College Ball and Mass Hysteria

College Ball and Mass Hysteria

Why March Madness Is So Popular  

By Israel Gutierrez 

March Madness is a single-elimination National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) D1 college basketball tournament consisting of 68 teams for men’s basketball and 64 teams for women’s basketball from all over the nation. 

Buzzer beater wins Villanova the 2016 Championship. Photo by USA Today. 

Every year, these NCAA D1 teams compete against each other in their respective gender sections to move further into the tournament and play for a chance at national championship glory. It is full of tough competition amongst some of the best collegiate basketball athletes the nation has to offer.  

But why is something as common as a basketball tournament so highly touted that we dedicate a whole month to it? 

The simple answer: because basketball. 

Basketball is estimated to have around 2.2 billion fans around the globe. [1] 

Team loyalty from current students, alumni, locals, and fans rack up the competitive nature of this tournament. 

But fans alone don’t make something go from good to great. There is so much more to the game than the spectators. 

The teams face off against each other based on rank, or a team’s seed. The top teams in the nation are rewarded by playing against teams at the bottom of the rankings. 

This ranking system is a major part of the reason why March Madness is highly regarded as one of the greatest sporting events in history. 

The underdog story is a major trope in this world—the games are battles between the Davids and Goliaths of basketball teams. Lower ranked teams can overcome the seemingly impossible odds to move on to the next round after so many have already written them off. 

The teams make their way up the bracket when they win and knock their competitors out of the tournament. The bracket is another one of the things that makes March Madness so popular as well. Each year, fans eagerly create what they believe to be the perfect bracket, one that guesses who wins and moves on to the subsequent rounds, and who takes home the championship. 

Passionate even in losing. Photo by March Madness.

Longing for the perfect bracket every year generates significant hype surrounding the tournament as fans watch and hope that their bracket survives another round. Fans get a first-hand taste of the competition when they compete to see whose bracket is the best. Unfortunately, many fans’ brackets are broken early in the competition. 

There has never been a perfect bracket, and the odds of making one are severely stacked against fans. 

March Madness is always full of amazing plays, but the most iconic play of March Madness must be the buzzer beater, a last second shot that goes in just before the buzzer indicating playtime is over goes off. A buzzer beater will often tie the game or win it outright.  

This play is a result of amazing plays coming from each team in a back-and-forth battle. It is also sometimes the result of an amazing comeback that ends with one team getting a chance to either finish the game as winners or tie it and force extra time. A perfect example of this play comes from the 2016 March Madness championship game where Villanova won on a game winning shot against North Carolina. [2] 

The difference between college athletes and professionals is the players’ incentives. College athletes don’t play for money; rather, it is for the love of the game and sometimes for a chance to reach the next level. This is one of the reasons that college basketball, and March Madness specifically, can compete with the pros in popularity. 

The hype surrounding it, the games and amazing plays that occur from the teams, and the straight up passion for the game that the players show are just some of the reasons that March Madness is deserving of its title. 

References 

  1. Sourav. (2021, March 23). Top 10 most popular sports in the world. Sports Show. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3dqmypj.  
  1. (2016, April 04). Villanova vs. North Carolina: Kris Jenkins shot wins national title. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7FFJUz0tdo
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