by Mac Paquette | sports writer
This time of year is a crazy and exciting time for sports fans across the country. The NCAA basketball tournament is starting and the field of 64 teams has been announced. “March madness” is the nickname which has been given to the NCAA tournament because of the various upsets and crazy events which occur throughout the course of the tournament. During “selection Sunday,” the teams are announced, and the teams that were on the “bubble” either are rejoicing for the opportunity to play in the tournament, or sadly see their hopes die as teams get selected over them. As well as being selected the teams learn their seeding (one through sixteen) and what region they will be playing in. These two determinations both play key roles in possible success for the team during the tournament. For example, the higher seeded teams play the lower seeded teams which are generally not as talented, or playing in a region which is closer to the location of the college will help bring more fans to the game, which gives the team a possible boost in energy since they are playing in front of their fans.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the NCAA tournament are the upsets and the “Cinderella stories” that play out through the tournament. Whether it be Butler University making it to the championship game in 2010 AND 2011, or George Mason University making the final four in 2006 as an 11-seed (which tied the lowest seed to ever make the final four), or even Lehigh University beating the 2nd seed Duke in the first round in 2012; there are always upsets every year and some under-the-radar team is able to make a strong push deep into the tournament.
Another storyline during the weeks leading up to the tournament all the way to selection Sunday are the bubble teams. Bubble teams are considered the teams that have a chance to slide their way into the NCAA tournament by taking one of the at-large bids. These teams are usually accompanied by about ten other schools who share a similar regular season record, and the margin for error for getting into the tournament for these teams is very little. For these teams, statistics like margin of victory, record against ranked teams, and record against RPI (Relative Power Index) top 50 teams. This is how several teams are likely compared against each other. The tournament committee will compare these teams, and make decisions based on what statistics are displayed. Most of the time, the comparisons are extremely tough to decide. A team with a record of 22-10 might seem like a better choice than a team who has a record of 19-13, but if the team with less wins and more losses won more games against higher ranked teams, and had more “quality” losses, then most likely the 19-13 team will be chosen. This is just another factor of anxiety for the coaches, players, and fans of teams on the bubble each year.
While most fans take the tournament as a time to watch great basketball and wait for the upsets to happen, others have taken the tournament and made a science out of it, yes a science. Bracketology has been made famous by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi over the past years and has now turned into a country-wide phenomenon. Bracketology is the math and statistics behind what teams make the tournament and what teams do not. This time of the year and the few weeks leading up to the tournament are the busiest weeks for all the NCAA tournament analysts because of all the fans who are demanding information on their team’s chances of making the tournament. This has greatly evolved the demand for the bracketology information, and the once small following Lunardi had for his work, has turned into something that college basketball fans across the country value with great importance.
While there are many arguments for what sport has the best postseason, whether it be the NFL playoffs, the NBA playoffs, the college football bowl system, or the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, nothing can compare to the craziness of the NCAA tournament.