Every year, sports fans around the country celebrate one of the most thrilling tournaments in sports — March Madness. The tournament offers huge benefits for all involved, even the unlikely.
March Madness and its single-elimination, neutral site structure create wildly unpredictable match-ups. People of all ages draw up their brackets and hope they can become one of the very
few (if any) to create a perfect bracket predicting the tournament’s champion. With 68 teams to research, 67 games to consider, and nuances like injuries, depth, grit and individual player stakes coming into play, predicting anything right is a challenge.
I, for one, had my bracket absolutely destroyed within the first round of March Madness this year. Upsets, when an unfavorably seeded team beats a highly regarded opponent, have been rampant.
ACC champion Virginia was bounced by Furman University, a school most couldn’t point out on a map. Princeton is showing out for the Ivy League by defeating Arizona and Missouri programs and advancing to the Sweet 16. Unbelievably, Purdue, with 7’4 giant and likely NBA draftee Zach Edey, fell to Fairleigh Dickinson University, a school that only seeded in the tournament due to an NCAA technicality prohibiting conference champion Merrimack from competing.
My favorite thing about March Madness is not the super-teams that have dominated college basketball for decades. These programs are very enjoyable to watch, and I give them credit for the discipline and skill it takes to become a consistent basketball team; however, the story of David and Goliath comes to mind when I watch schools like Fairleigh Dickinson take down Purdue.
The buzzer beaters, upsets and busted brackets are the best parts of the viewing experience, but the financial and perception boosts that these small schools gain is just as important.
March Madness is the NCAA’s largest source of revenue, and for good cause. Schools can show the country that dollar signs are not the only way to win in the NCAA. The NCAA basketball tournament is such a large source of money that some schools in small divisions can earn their division millions of dollars just from a tournament win.
In fact, tournament appearances alone warrant payouts. A singular appearance guarantees six years of payouts from the “basketball performance fund,” a pool of money that is paid out to the conferences of tournament teams. Last year, the award was approximately $330,000. While this might be chump change to conferences and teams like the ACC and Duke who expect tournament berths, it is program-altering for teams like Oral Roberts or FDU.
The spotlight put on schools like Davidson, the alma mater of Steph Curry, helps small schools’ attendance. Unsurprisingly Davidson’s attendance rose after Curry’s March Madness winning streak placed the small school in the Elite Eight.
Small schools getting recognition on a national stage is good branding not just for the school, but also for the NCAA. Over the years, the NCAA has not always proven to be the fairest organization, but this tournament brings much more reward than other sports playoff series because of the massive return smaller schools consistently obtain.
With all of the benefits mentioned about March Madness, it’s important to emphasize the success of the Ole Miss Women’s basketball team. After defeating first-seed Stanford in a mind-blowing upset, Ole Miss’s Women’s team advanced to the Sweet 16. This win, hopefully, is enough to spark a new era of dominance for the Lady Rebs.
The Lady Rebs had an overall record of 25-8 this season and did major damage during their tournament run.
This is the furthest Ole Miss has advanced in the tournament since 2007. Undoubtedly, a monumental upset like this will play a major hand in visibility, recruitment and program development. It’s important to distinguish that the women’s tournament does not have the same financial implications due to contract differences.
Moments like this don’t just come and go for programs; they become legendary milestones that inspire teams down the road. The success of the Ole Miss Women’s basketball team is yet another reason I love rooting for this school.
Justice Rose is the the opinion editor from Madison, Miss.