By BRENNAN PRUSAK
March Madness has become one of the biggest events that all of sports have to offer. Even though it is a college tournament, it draws more than 20 million viewers live and roughly 70 million more on live streams, according to the NCAA.
It seems as if wherever you go during the month of march, the tournament will be on somewhere. Perhaps the biggest reason for the tournaments popularity stems from its unique one and done format that allows some of the greatest upsets sport fans have seen in their lifetime.
A total of 68 teams make the NCAA tournament every year and are split into four divisions seeded 1-16. The one seed plays the 16 seed, the two the 15, and so forth. While the higher seed is supposedly the “better” team, the better seed can be sent packing after one bad game. Fans love to see a two-seed taken out by the underdog 15 and are even excited by a six-seed losing to an 11. However, the 2018 tournament has been like none that came before it.
Before this year, No. 1 seeds were 132-0 in the first round of the tournament against 16 seeds. This all changed when 16th seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County beat top-ranked Virginia by 20 points. This was the crowning jewel in a first round that saw 13 seeded Buffalo beat 4 Arizona, 11 seed Syracuse beat 6 seed TCU, 11 seed Chicago Loyola beat 6 seed Miami, and 13 seed Marshal beat 4 seed Wichita State. The madness didn’t stop there, as Syracuse and Chicago Loyola both knocked off highly ranked 3 seeds in the following round, 9 Florida state stunned 1 Xavier, and 7 Nevada came back from a 20-point deficit beat 2 Cincinnati.
While upsets are usually greeted with excitement, this year’s tournament has gotten some coverage that you may not expect. Many analysts and media members, most notably ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, believe that there are too many upsets this year, and that the absence of top ranked teams is making the later rounds of the tournament less exciting. It seems paradoxical, as the news and sports media want to see upsets but also want to see the highly seeded teams with top players, so what is the right balance?
On the day following the first round, stories covering UMBC’s historic win were atop of both ESPN and Bleacher Report’s homepage. While these stories draw more views than a one seed beating the 16, upsets lead to second and third round match-ups of less popular teams, causing stories to get thinner and less popular.
The average fans love to see it, but the news and sports media and purists wish it would stop. It is all up to preference, but the fact that there have been so many upsets thus far that the sports media have started to switch their side is something we may never see again.