Every year, millions of Americans fill out what they perceive to be the perfect bracket.
After hours of research, which includes reading and watching every college basketball expert give their take on who they think is going to the Final Four; who is overrated and who’s on upset alert, we pencil in, erase and pencil back in what is sure to be a perfect bracket.
And then reality sets in and things begin to fall apart, which eventually ends up with your perfect bracket turning into firewood as it gets busted before the end of the first weekend.
The NCAA Tournament is the most unpredictable event in a source of entertainment that thrives on being unpredictable.
We not only make our upset picks, but we make them with confidence and brag to our inner circle if we get the upset right while at the same time getting crucified by that same inner circle when the favorite wins by 30.
We can’t predict how the NCAA tournament will pan out, we never have and will never be able to, yet we will continue to fill out brackets for the rest of our days with renewed hope and confidence that this is finally going to be the year we have a perfect bracket.
At the beginning of the tournament, who would have said that three SEC teams were going to the Elite Eight?
How many people had Villanova, Louisville and Duke out by the first weekend?
How many people had Xavier, an eleven-seed and South Carolina, a seven-seed, in the Elite Eight?
And that is just this year.
Remember when Florida Golf Coast went to the Sweet 16?
What about when a Steph Curry-led Davidson team went to the Final Four in 2008?
Or when UConn won that national championship as seven, the first team in history to do so?
No other playoff tournament would have had UConn in its tournament except for the NCAA.
According to the committee, UConn would have ranked somewhere between 28-32 in the country based on its seven-seed.
To put that in perspective, only 16 teams make the NHL and NBA playoffs, 10 make the MLB playoffs and 12 make the NFL playoffs.
At the start of the tournament, a total of 68 teams have a chance to win the National Championship, that is the most out of any other sport in the country, and it’s not close.
That glimmer of hope, to even say you made to the tournament, is enough for most teams.
Realistically, about 10 teams had a shot at a National Championship at the start of the tournament. But ask Northwestern what simply going to the tournament meant to the school, the first trip in its history.
Ask South Carolina what that Final Four run means to it, a school that prior to this season, had not won a tournament game in 44 years.
Ask North Dakota what playing in this tournament meant to it. It gets to be on national television and play a school that most people had going to the Final Four. Even when it loses, it’s still a big deal.
It went to the NCAA tournament, the big freaking dance.
North Dakota will never win a national title in basketball. But, the way the system is set up, that doesn’t matter. Going to the tournament for most teams in the country is a successful season.
Sure, for some schools like Duke or Louisville, this season is a failure because they didn’t even go to the Sweet 16. However, outside of about 20 schools in the country, a Sweet 16 run would be one of the best seasons in school history.
The tournament allows different goals for different teams and even through there is only one national champion, schools like Xavier and South Carolina will look back at the 2016-17 season as “that year we went to the Elite Eight,” and even schools like Princeton will remember this season as, “that year we went to the tournament and almost beat Notre Dame.”
College basketball is the only sport in the nation where you can have a successful season by losing the last game of the season, how can it get any more exciting than that?