BY MATTHEW DE SARLE
The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament overcame COVID-19 in 2020-2021 to produce on of the best tournaments ever. This version of March Madness featured a Cinderella 15 seed nearly making the Elite 8, ten double digit seeds making the field of 32, and one final upset for the record books.
And we buried our lead about 2021’s March Madness. That’s because historic basketball icon UCLA actually made the Final Four as an 11 seed!
Despite the unusual year including quarantines and mask-wearing, college basketball observers shouldn’t be surprised by some of the normal antics. Here are 5 normal ingredients that renewed themselves as fixtures in a melting pot of madness.
5. Skaky Teams Get Shocked in The First Showdown
This happens literally every year. A team that has flirted with the AP Top 10 throughout the season gets bounced in the first pair of days. People look at the roster on paper and ask, “how can this happen?” This year was saw NBA draft pick Jericho Sims surrounded by a fleet of future (possible) lottery picks like Greg Brown and Kai Jones. You watched them lose at home down the stretch of the regular season to other in-conference mid-Top 25 AP programs like West Virginia and Texas Tech and ask “how is this happening?”
4. Leading Scorers Nationwide Need Be Feared Regardless of Conference, Size
If CJ McCollum and Harold “The Show” Arceneaux haven’t taught us anything, then Max Abmas and the Oral Roberts Eagles have made it officially official. The scoring abilities of a guard who ranks top 5 (or first overall) in scoring nationwide can translate in the tournament.
3. CBS Hosts a Questionable Yet Must-See TV Immediate Sunday Matchup
Wichita State basketball fans are still not over the let-down of losing to 8 seed Kentucky on Sunday, March, 23rd of 2014. Sorry, too soon? Yet, they have good company now this season with Illinois basketball fans. Anyone who follows basketball, especially the inner workings of how the bracket is constructed, knows that Illinois had no business playing Loyola Chicago as a 9 seed just 72 hours into the tournament. And yet, it happened. Loyola Chicago was ranked in the neighborhood of the 10th best team in the nation when the tournament started, according to which poll you subscribe to. However, the Sunday matinee television programming of Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers renewing their Cinderella ways against an in-state foe was too flavorful for the NCAA to pass up. You tell me that NCAA and CBS aren’t working together to make that storyline possible, and I have the Clark Street Bridge I want to sell you.
In fact, let’s just have the NCAA and TV executive comes out and say it. “We schedule the bracket in such a way to provide great sports drama on television!”
I mean, I for one would not protest that sentiment if it got published to the record. I want sexy matchups in the bracket, but I would prefer we call it for what it is.
2. The Media Darling Doesn’t Always Win
As much as the previous take about television executives conspiring to have a great TV drama could have some truth, there’s also something to be said about the populous favorite not making the Final Four. There’s been a “Little Mac” quality to many NCAA stars in recent years. Players like Luka Garza and Jimmer Fredette capture the imagination of audiences, despite their lowly NBA stock values. Those players have gotten knocked out when going into later rounds against deep teams.
- Future NBA Greats Don’t Always Dominate
If you’re a fan of 1990s NBA hoops, think of the best players of the past 3 decades who actually played some college basketball: Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan. None made a Final 4. In fact, most of these greats struggled to advance beyond the first weekend.
Final Thought: In closing, it’s a murky picture. Some might even say it’s madness. As you pick your bracket in future years, remember that your future NCAA legend should be good, but not too great. The team should be must-see TV, but not have a tragic character whose reputation could never outpace his play. Good luck with that.
Editor’s Note: This author and collegebasketballeyetest.com supports the rights of student athletes to receive equal pay for the millions (if not billions) in revenue they help create. Please consider supporting these young people by signing online petitions like this one on Change.org.