It happens every year. There’s no way of avoiding it. It’s inevitable. It’s expected, yet unexpected at the same time. It’s craziness, delirium, hysteria, lunacy, mania, ridiculousness. It’s March Madness. We know what the Madness is, but what causes it? How does it happen every single year? How do heavy favorites lose to no-name schools when everything’s on the line and both teams are playing their hardest? It completely defies logic.
Let’s think about how certain schools become part of college basketball’s elite:
Winning tradition —> larger fan base —> more $$ to spend on basketball program —> nicer facilities —> better coaches & training staff —> highly touted recruits —> greater development of players in system —> consistently winning games.
How can a mid-major school with far fewer resources and much less talent on the roster even compete with the big guns, let alone beat them in the tourney? On top of the advantages listed above, big name teams are in the spotlight all season. They’re used to the pressure of playing on national television with millions of viewers. There’s no way any top seeds should lose. But they do. Every year.
Take George Mason’s unbelievable run in the 2006 NCAA Tournament for example. The 11th seeded Patriots beat perennial power-houses Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn on their way to the Final Four. They ended up losing to one of the best college basketball teams ever assembled, the back-to-back national champion Florida Gators. George Mason’s run from losing in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinals to the Final Four should never happen. It defies all logic and odds, much like every year’s cinderella team.
We clearly have to throw logic out the window. Statistics? While interesting to look at, I don’t believe in ‘em. Statistically, Spud Webb should have never been able to dunk a basketball standing only 5 feet 7 inches off the ground. Webb won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest over 6′ 8″ Dominique Wilkins, arguably the greatest dunker of all time. Statistics don’t decide any outcome, they just help you feel better about making a prediction.
Can expert basketball analysts explain or predict the Madness? Nope. These people make a living covering college basketball every day of their lives and cannot make the correct tourney picks. Just THREE brackets out of 6.45 million submitted to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge got all 16 Sweet Sixteen teams correct. None of these three brackets belong to popular analysts, who we listen to ‘spitting knowledge’ on TV and radio all day.
If logic, statistics and expert analysis can’t explain the Madness, what can?
Ready for the punchline? The Madness is caused by… the Madness itself.
The Madness has become so big, that its own reputation fuels more madness each year. Every player, coach, fan, ball boy on each team in the tourney is aware of the Madness; and that’s why good teams lose games they shouldn’t. It’s all mental. Lower seeded teams know they have a chance against their top-ranked opponent because of past madness. Heavily-favored powerhouses know that getting upset can happen to them because it’s happened to teams like them every year prior. You’d think being aware of past upsets would help focus favored teams on the task at hand, but fear of the Madness lurks in the back of their heads. Nobody even refers to the NCAA Tournament by its proper name anymore, it’s March Madness.
The Madness is a fascinating phenomenon fueled by itself, ever-expanding like our galaxy. Every year more madness occurs thanks to previous madness taking place. The Madness is polarizing, dramatic, exhilarating, dismal and enjoyable all at the same time. We hate that our brackets get ruined, but love the entertainment of madness in tourney games. It’s human nature to pull for the underdogs when no emotional ties exist for either team playing. Luckily, the Madness just fuels the fire. We love to see David beat Goliath, even though we usually pick Goliath in our bracket.
Parallels can be drawn between your bracket and women. There’s that time of the month in March every year when it gets all red and messy, tempers start to flair, reactions to unexpected outcomes become extremely irrational, meltdowns occur and madness ensues. But just like that special lady in your life, it was your choice to get involved and at the end of the relationship (or tournament in this case) it was fun. You probably ended up losing some money, but you gained experience and are more prepared for the next one in your life.
For now though,
and the Madness continues.