The madness is here. Conference tournaments across the country have taken place and will continue to take place the rest of this week. These conference money grabs lead up to the 68 team NCAA basketball tournament where the real madness will begin. This month and event has become an integral part of American culture as most everyone will join some type of bracket pool if they know anything about college basketball or not. With that in mind, is March Madness good for college basketball?
The college basketball season tips off in early November and is pretty much an afterthought to the general public with college and pro football in full swing. Many people across the country only watch college basketball during the month of March and who can blame them? The NBA one and done rule makes elite programs like Kentucky unrecognizable from year to year. The college basketball regular season is essentially a long drawn out exhibition season with very little actually on the line for most schools. A team can go 10-20 in the regular season and still make the post-season by getting hot in March with 3 or 4 wins in a row.
When college football added a playoff the main concern of their leadership and talking heads was not taking away from the regular season like college basketball. This is a point that is never argued or refuted by college basketball experts and it may not be healthy for the game. The leadership at the NCAA and AD’s at the top schools should be proactive and find a way to make college basketball matter more from October to February. There is one reason that hasn’t happened yet though. Money!
The NCAA tournament is a cash cow and as long as the most successful schools and conferences are raking in money, there is little chance for change. The only development we will see in the future is making the tournament even bigger (which will further degrade the regular season). Remember the NCAA tournament was originally an exhibition tournament consisting of just 8 teams and expanded over the years to 16, 22, 25, 32, 40, 48, 64, 65 schools up to the 68 teams we see today all vying to cut down the nets.
At a national level, college basketball is a niche sport that comes roaring to life each March. The madness really gets the country going as we all love a good Cinderella story but it comes at a cost. March Madness has become more popular than the sport of college basketball itself and that is something that is not sustainable if college basketball wants to grow.
The madness is here and is no doubt here to stay. The question is at what cost does it come at and what will college basketball look like in twenty years? Is a massive 120 plus team tournament in our future?