9 Reasons Why the NCAA Tournament Is the Greatest Sporting Event on Earth
Thank our lucky stars, the NCAA tournament is back. Which means about a hundred million Americans can shamelessly hop on the college basketball bandwagon for the next two weeks all because of a little blessing called a “bracket.” So everyone, hurry out there and root for your picks before 14 seeds decide to just sweep all the 3s this year and you tear up your bracket in disgust. But before you do any of that, read this piece on why the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is better than all the other sporting events. We dare you to disagree.
Too much of a good thing is an even better thing. Considering people largely tune out during the regular season, the tournament itself runs like a high-stakes mini-season for three weeks. And then you’re done. It’s the fine line between a slow burn like a baseball season, and a big money shot like the Super Bowl. But it’s one that the tourney toes with both grace and elegance. Or something.
9. It Last Longer Than Any Other Event
Some diehard purists and fans might get upset, but the truth is that college basketball is going heads up against hockey, football (pro and some college), and pro basketball. If something’s gonna give there, it’s going to be college basketball. HOWEVER, for the month of March, there’s nothing as important as the NCAA tournament. So rather than feeling lost going into a two or three-round playoff and just forgoing the whole affair, you get enough basketball in here (see point above) that you can say to yourself, “Yeah, I kept up with college basketball this year,” after having gone to bars and binge-watched about 80 hours of it. The tourney is the House of Cards of American sports.
8. It’s Comprehensive Enough That You Can Skip The Regular Season
We weren't so blessed this year, having to wait an entire two days between the two events, but normally, the 17th represents a perfect storm of day drinking that results in either earlier bedtimes or a LOT of trouble later in the night. From the glass-is-half-full perspective, the distinction between the two gives us two reasons to cut loose.Win-win.
7. It (Normally) Dovetails Nicely With St. Patrick's Day
As we discussed yesterday, March Madness isn’t a competition between closely-matched teams. At least not in the beginning. You’ve got the favorites, and you’ve got the underdogs. Then you’ve got all the 6-10 seeds that no one cares about unless their dad went to school there or something. And with so many David vs. Goliath matchups, especially in the early rounds, one of the best things in the world is watching David steal a game here and there, completely destroying the brackets and ruining the natural order of the universe. Duke has a whole roster that’s going pro. When Creighton or the like has a team full of future real estate brokers and regional managers, it’s impossible not to want the upset.
6. Cinderella Stories
So Many Games. The NFL playoffs give us 11 games. The NCAA tourney gives us 63 (I’m really not inclined to acknowledge those stupid play-in games that eke out a 64th or 65th. Who cares?). And 62 of those games run Thursday through Sunday at virtually all hours of the day. There’s never not college basketball on during those times. It’s tantamount to loving champagne, then being allowed to swim in a champagne-filled swimming pool Thursday-Sunday from 11 AM to 9 PM. It’s heaven. And no other sport can touch it in terms of density and quantity.
5. The Games. So Many Games.
When you spend as much time watching the tourney as you probably do if you’re reading this list, then you know that you shun family and non-sports friends for three weeks and adopt a new family. A family that you’ve never met but guides you on the journey from 64 to 1. They are the CBS coverage teams, and when they’re awesome (Gus Johnson) you can feel like a stolen pass feels like Moses parting the Red Sea, and when they’re terrible (Vitale, BABY! and Billy Packer always), it’s not that big of a deal, and you just make fun of them with your buddies.
4. Gus Johnson, Dick Vitale, and (Formerly) Billy Packer
Note that this isn’t the same as “Cinderellas.” Cinderellas tend to do well and upset teams. Cinderellas are very much the minority. For every 2010 Butler, or 2006 George Mason, there are countless 2007 George Masons, UC Santa Cruz-es. They don’t win, they don’t put up a fight, but we’re happy they’re there, running around, double-dribbling with their point guards decked out in goggles and sweatpants. They’re fodder for comedy, and it’s fun to watch the better teams dunk on them.
3. The Small Schools
It’s not QUITE spring most places, but it’s getting there. It kicks off just before most spring breaks, and it signals the end of winter better than any fat woodchuck ever could. It’s the last hurrah before a nation collectively decides, “Okay. We’ll pretty much be hanging out outside until football season starts.” And if you can find a sports bar in a nice climate on a Good Friday with TV outside, you just found how you’re going to spend the next nine hours of your day. It’s a gift from the sports gods.
2. The Timing
The brackets as a gambling device are fun enough, I guess. It’s fun to fill them out with no clue what you’re doing, only to find out that San Diego State probably won’t upset Syracuse, Ohio State, Florida, and Kansas to get to the championship game. But the most clueless participant in a bracket pool WILL win, so there’s no point in even playing. You might as well just hand the receptionist or some hipster IT guy your cash on March 15. HOWEVER, the brackets, as trivial as they are, give legitimacy to the event. When everyone’s involved, it’s not treasonous to take a three-hour lunch break on a Friday and turn a lunch beer into four lunch Tuaca shots. You can watch the games on the internet during conference calls, perking up only when you hear your name mentioned. The bracket says to most employers and offices, “Sports is more important than work for the next few Thursdays and Fridays. So let’s ease up for the good of morale...Which means we all have carte blanche to scream at the TV insulting overwhelmed 19 year-olds from Minnesota." AND THAT IS WHY MARCH MADNESS IS THE BEST SPORTING EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND.