March Madness is broken, and that’s fine with me

David Drucker/ Staff Writer

I once thought that the purpose of the NCAA postseason was to find the best team. Of course not – this is corporate America. It’s an ingenious mechanism that makes a sport our country doesn’t care about profitable.

Make no mistake: nobody watches the NCAA regular season. In 2014-2015, 57% of normal games earned a television rating of 0.0 or 0.1 per That same postseason, however, had a draw of 11.3 million total viewers according to

Most people ignore the regular season because it doesn’t matter.

They are many flaws with the current NCAA tournament. For one, teams like Michigan State – a team locked into the Final Four in many brackets – was knocked off by Middle Tennessee State University in the very first round. Is it fair? Yes, in the single-game elimination format. Is it good for people who enjoy watching good basketball? No.

If you think March Madness was made for basketball fans, a person with a lot of money has been fooling you. March is for the gamblers. Americans don’t tune in necessarily to see the best games but instead hope for most insane, unlikely results that line up with their unique brackets.

This gambling spirit is achieved by convincing everyone that each team has a real chance. This is based on a stretched truth – although #15 seeds take down #2 seeds in the first round all the time, the lowest seed to ever win the whole thing was #8 Villanova. The tournament is exciting because the stakes are high. But we’re not supposed to be gamblers – we’re sports fans. Watching the better team find out who they are and win should be enough for us, right?

In this casino of basketball, one group is winning big: the mid-majors.

It comes down to motivation? Make no mistake: the allure of making it to the big tournament is real, but it’s also a long road. It is already infinitely harder and more depressing for mid-major teams to make it to the NCAA tournament than a power five conference team. They normally aren’t invited – they must win their own conference tournaments in order to secure a bid. Take the University of Alabama at Birmingham: they crushed their competition all season long going 26-5 overall, but lost in the postseason and went to the National Invitation Tournament instead.

I have covered two below average men’s basketball teams at Florida International University in my two years here. Both of them could not keep a .500 record with some of the top talent in Conference USA. Add in the fact that their standing body of student fans is a fraction of that of a power five conference and you get a pretty sad game-day atmosphere. When their pride has been taken away from these Panthers – when they are spending the prime of their lives being spanked on their home court on a Saturday night instead of partying like most of their peers – how do you get off the floor? How do you convince these Panthers that they are playing for something?

It’s teams like the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders that keep FIU motivated. They weren’t just underdogs; they were dark horses by mid-major standards. In their final game of the regular season, they needed a last-second three just to lift them over FIU. They went on to upset #2 Michigan State University in the first round of the tournament. Applause and hysteria swirled around them for days as they relished the national spotlight. As they got the attention that they would never otherwise gain.

Many people think that the NCAA tournament is unfair for mid-major teams, but it’s quite the opposite. They are the best thing to ever happen to them. They bridle hope in otherwise hopeless seasons. Then they give them a chance to upset a heavyweight so above their pay grade that they would never be able to book them during their regular season schedule. After all that, they get to return to campus heroes and nationally known.

In the end, the NCAA Tournament isn’t fair the way it’s set up. To rightfully crown a national champion, we should have the best teams playing at least five-game series against each other to eliminate outliers like Middle Tennessee over Michigan State. But I write hoops for a mid-major school. So as long as I’m here, you won’t see me complaining.

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