The NCAA Tournament Formula is Undefeated

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16: Jairus Lyles #10 of the UMBC Retrievers drives to the basket against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It’s far from a hot take to claim that March Madness is the greatest annual sporting event in the country. Once a year for four weeks, the nation’s basketball fans abandon the mundane tasks of their daily lives, if only for a few hours, and allows themselves to be galvanized by 64 college basketball teams, duking it out to be the best in the country. The appeal of The Big Dance is so dramatic, so self-indulgent, so quintessentially American that even the staunchest athletic rejectionists fall prey to the rampant contagion of college hoops.

If sport is narrative told by way of competition, March Madness is 32 Shakespearean plays acted out in succession over the course of two days. The crowds jeer when Duke University — the kings of spring looking to exceed expectations — stumbles out of the gates and ultimately falls to Michigan State University. The crowd’s hearts are stolen by Murray State University — defender of the common man superstar, Ja Morant, who topple the March stalwarts, Marquette University.

While the unparalleled drama and narration is exhilarating to watch and take part in, the beloved attraction to March Madness finds a home in our American values. The initial rounds represent the iconic values our nation was founded under.

All 64 teams invited to the tournament are given an equal and televised opportunity to shock the world and write history every night. Perennial powerhouses like University of North Carolina and Gonzaga University share the playing field with the Bradley Bears out of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Year after year, the tournament mirrors the reality we live in as the odds are deceptively stacked against the underserved. Teams with a minuscule fraction of the athletic funding of some of the college hoops titans, find a way to make it to the grand stage, only to take the first flight home. The sixteenth seeded North Dakota State University, a scrappy pack of grassroots Bison from the Great North, are only allowed 20 minutes of fervent dancing before they succumb to the fate of a number one seed.

The University of Oregon can defy the odds as a 12-seed only to link up with the University of Virginia in a home region. This is emblematic of a consistency — while upsets are all fun and healthy when we get down to the nitty-gritty, you’re going to see the top dogs fight it out.

The Madness draws you in with the idea of a Cinderella story and leaves you with nothing but the best teams in basketball fighting for their lives in a do-or-die four team crossover. Not a bad consultation. This is the formula that is rarely broken.

There will be one through sixteen seeds every year, and crazy shit will still happen. You will leap with joy and scream in agony. You will crumple all 15 of your losing brackets up, swivel around in your spinny chair, and shoot 3/15 in your trash can. And with absolutely no doubt, you will be competing again next year.

-Mason Leib

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