I love the NCAA tournament. Nothing is quite like excitment of the tournament. So much is on the line for each team in every game. There are underdogs, close games, upsets, and Cinderella stories that are so fun to watch.
There have been some great moments in the NCAA tournament the past few days, but something I have come to realize is that the national champion in a year like this could, at least in-part, be very determined by the luck of the draw. This is a result of having an amazing single-elimination tournament where 68 teams have the chance to fight for the national championship. I am not at all saying that luck decides the champion because clearly who ever wins the tournament has done the work and has the skills to create that opportunity. Yet, I do think that it is worth considering how one seeding/region difference could completely change the tournament.
At first, I thought this was a flaw in the system. I could not think of how it is just to have the national champion be in-part determined by luck of the draw? After further thought, I have come to the conclusion that the who, what, and where of the tournament is what makes things unpredictable. While this might not help individual teams in certain situations, it makes the tournament that much better.
Who makes the tournament is definitely a factor for the entire tournament. Since a team can get selected by the tournament committee or earn a spot by winning there conference, sometimes pretty solid teams just miss being selected for the tournament. While it is unlikely a team that is not selected for the tournament would win the national championship, they could be in better position for an upset. It’s great for teams to be able to earn a bid to the tournament by winning their conference (like NC A&T), but in some cases a higher seed could have an easier draw as a result of it.
What seed a team receives also shapes the tournament. There is a fine line between who receives many of the seeds. This seeding determines the match up, and some teams just match up better with certain styles than others. Upsets may be caused, or avoided, based on seeding.
Where the games are played can also influence the tournament, even though games are played on a neutral court. For instance, it certainly does not hurt for a team like Ohio State to play its first two rounds in Dayton, Ohio or Kansas to be in Kansas City.
I love the NCAA tournament, and I now have an appreciation for what luck of the draw brings to the tournament. It makes it possible for basically anything to happen, even the most unlikely upsets.