May 23, 2024

March Madness is one of the biggest American sporting events of the year. Millions of spectators tune in to watch the tournament unfold every year. The tournament itself has grown into not only a major sporting event but a cultural event as well, with March Madness Brackets taking a life of their own during this event. However, the NCAA has recently been considering expanding the number of teams in the tournament even more than before. 

March Madness began in 1939 and originally consisted of eight teams until 1950, with the final number of teams settling on the current 68 teams in 2010.

Even so, this is not the first time the collegiate tournament has discussed adding more teams, with the NCAA discussing adding 96 teams in 2010, with some suggesting a number as high as 128 teams.

Legendary former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski stated his thoughts on the potential tournament team number changes in an interview with ESPN, saying, “Before you start messing around with [the tournament], understand what it is. It’s a treasure. It’s not something where you flippantly say, ‘Let’s go to 96 [teams].’ Everyone, just keep quiet and recognize the treasure we have.”

While many longtime coaches and pillars of the sport have mixed feelings regarding the potential changes, students wonder how increased teams would affect the tournament. Some believe that even the current number now may be too much.

“There are already 68 teams in the March Madness tournament,” said Aiden Holmgren, sophomore applied theology major. “You could make a debate that even some of the teams that made it didn’t deserve to get in, just based on how their season went. I don’t think it would necessarily be a bad thing; I think it would pull in more fan interest if those lower schools do well and bring the colleges more money. I think from my perspective, it could be good because, just as a fan, I would love more basketball.”

How this affects bracket building is just as important, especially since it is a significant reason people tune in to watch in the first place. One question is on everyone’s mind every year: How to avoid the bracket buster?

Shadon Boswell, freshman marketing major, shares his approach to bracket building, and how there is no way to fully predict all possible outcomes.

“It’s inevitable. Brackets are going to get busted no matter what. I don’t think it’s possible to get a perfect bracket. You can tell anyone ‘oh, pick this team or this team,’ you can make 50 brackets; it’s not happening. Maybe you can get through the first round of 68, but it’s going to be a bust at some point,” Boswell said.

Regardless of the changes the NCAA decides to make to the March Madness tournament in the future, it is clear that it has cemented itself as a cultural hallmark of collegiate basketball sports and American sports culture in general. 

Even the energy that comes with the collegiate games isn’t always matched by the professionals, and this is reflected in fan sentiments. 

“It’s just a month for basketball fans to all come together and watch a lot of young guys playing their hearts out,” Boswell said. “If you watch professional basketball, you don’t get that level of upsets, energy and love for the game the way you do in March Madness. It’s just a different level of play.”

Holmgren reflected on this feeling, mentioning that the stakes are way higher for collegiate players, many of whom are still looking to jump to the pro leagues. 

“For those lower-seeded schools, they have a lot more grit, more willing to jump for a loose ball or play harder because they never know when they’ll get the chance to be on such a big stage again,” Holmgren said. 

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