2021 NCAA Tournament: The Bracket Manifesto

Gonzaga Basketball NCAA Tournament

After a two-year wait, the NCAA Tournament is finally upon us. As Upper East Side resident and CBS analyst, Jon Rothstein, likes to say…

The NCAA Tournament is one of my favorite events of the year. For three weeks, college basketball will dominate the sports world. In particular, the first day of the tournament is one of my best days of the year. 12 hours of basketball, food, gambling, and anarchy. Sign me up.

With the tournament comes the bracket. According to American Gaming Association, 36.7 million Americans say they will fill out a bracket. I’d venture to say that more than half of those people don’t watch college basketball, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means that a lot of people are going to fill out brackets and enter gambling pools.

Let’s just call a spade a spade. It takes a lot of luck to win your pool. However, there are some tips and trends to follow that could set you up for success. As someone who won a national tournament challenge and spoke on CBS Sports Radio about my victory, I may know a thing or two about the bracket…

This is my bracket manifesto.

I’m not going to tell you which teams to pick. However, I’m going to give you the keys on how to fill out your bracket. This manifesto is your tour guide. You still have to arrive at the destination, but I’m giving you the map to follow.

*Disclaimers are hot in the streets right now thanks to the “I am not a financial advisor, but I’m going to buy this stock” tweets. I want to state that I am not an expert. I’m just a guy who has found some success filling out brackets. This is MY strategy.

When In Doubt, Pick The Favorite

This is my number one rule. When in doubt, pick the favorite. It sounds simple, but so many of us fall into the trap of picking the perfect upset instead of focusing on who wins titles, which are the top seeds. There have been four champions since 1983 that have been seeded worse than five. The last team to do it was UCONN in 2014. If you picked UCONN in 2014 to win it all, you probably won your pool. Congrats, but that was an anomaly. Stick to a team in the top 5 as your champion.

Focus On Keeping Your Sweet Sixteen Intact

In most pools, brackets will be rewarded for advancement. If your pool rewards an upset win with more points, then pick more upsets. However, there are more points up for grabs in the later rounds. Don’t freak out if you don’t pick the correct #12 over #5 or #11 or #6 in the first round. If you had that team losing the next round, then it’s not a huge loss. Focus on having as many Sweet 16 teams as possible. If your bracket has 12 of 16 teams heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, then you’re in great shape.

First Time Final Four Participants Rarely Win It All

There’s a first for everything. Teams like Alabama and Tennessee may be trending in the right direction. Both squads are looking to reach their first Final Four in school history. However, only one team in the last 35 years has won a title during their first trip to the Final Four and that was UCONN in 1999. As someone who loves this Alabama team and will pick them to go far, it would be unwise to pick them as my champion.

The #11 over #6 Is The New #12 Over #5

One of the most popular pieces of advice shared during tournament week is the #12 over #5 upset. “You need to pick at least one 12-seed to win,” said one of your coworkers who thinks he’s an expert. Although your coworker is probably a snob, they’re right. In the past 40 years, at least one 12-seed beat a 5-seed in all but five tournaments. You should pick at least one 12-seed to win in the first round, but the 11-seeds are becoming the new must-have upset. 11-seeds are 21-19 against 6-seeds in the last 40 tournament games. So which Syracuse 11-seed wins a game in the first round?

Blue – The Color Of Champions

With apologies to red, orange, yellow, green, purple, white, and black, blue is the official color of champions. Since Syracuse won in 2003, only one other champion did not have a shade of blue on their uniform and that was Louisville in 2013. Technically, that championship never took place! This year, Gonzaga, Michigan, and Illinois are all 1-seeds not because of their resume, but because of the blue on their jerseys. Sorry, Baylor.

Cherish this NCAA Tournament. We were all robbed of March Madness last year. COVID-19 can’t ruin this one, right?

Right?

Please don’t ruin it, COVID.

What are your tips for filling out brackets? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

2020 Pac-12 Basketball: Tournament Bracket Takes Shape

2020 Pac-12 Basketball: Tournament Bracket Takes Shape

The 2020 Pac-12 Tournament bracket has taken shape after another crazy week of Pac-12 Basketball. Oregon showed why they are the favorites to win this week’s tournament in Las Vegas, while last-place Washington shocked both Arizona and Arizona State. Officiating took some of the spotlight as teams jockeyed for position in the conference tournament.

Oregon Cements Front-Runner Status Ahead of Pac-12 Tournament

Oregon defended their home court against California and Stanford, and they are looking like the frontrunners in Las Vegas this week. Payton Pritchard has had a great senior season, and is the favorite to win Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. Pritchard should also be included in conversations for the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year award. He has averaged 20.5 points per game this season and shot 46.8 percent from the field. Pritchard has been one of the most efficient players and will have a chance to lead his team to a second straight Pac-12 Tournament Championship this week.

USC Beats UCLA, Teams Could Meet Again In Pac-12 Tournament Semis

USC and UCLA played in a classic defensive duel on Saturday. With one second remaining Jonah Mathews made a 3-point shot in his last game at the Galen Center. USC got a much-needed win that helps their cause on Selection Sunday. UCLA is squarely on the bubble, but this loss does not diminish the turnaround they have had this season. The Bruins will be the two seed in Las Vegas, and USC will be the three seed. These teams could meet again in the Pac-12 semis. Both USC and UCLA can cement their tournament bids by winning games in the Pac-12 Tournament. However, both the Bruins and Trojans will face nerve wracking Selection Sundays if they are unable to get at least one win in Las Vegas.  

Washington Shocks Both Arizona State and Arizona On Road

Washington poses a threat in the Pac-12 Tournament next week. They played excellent against both Arizona State and Arizona. They won both these games by playing the types of games their opponents are used to playing. The Huskies may also be getting back point guard Quade Green, who was declared academically ineligible in January. It is unclear if Green will play in the Pac-12 Tournament. If he does, he will add another dimension to a suddenly dangerous Husky team. Washington is considered a dark horse to win the Pac-12 Tournament but will have to do so as the last place team in the conference. Also, they have to play Arizona again on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Arizona State Backs Their Way into Pac-12 Tournament First Round Bye

Arizona State took a huge step back against Washington, but they were able to beat Washington State on Saturday. A point of concern in ASU’s victory against the Cougars is that they relinquished a 17-point lead in the second half. They were able to make enough plays to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, but the Sun Devils are also not a lock to make the Tournament field.

Arizona Tournament Bound, But Struggles Showing

Arizona has done enough to make the tournament, but they have struggled during the back end of the season. The Wildcats are 1-4 in their last five games, with their only win coming last Thursday against Washington State at home. Their offensive woes have shown, as they only had five made field goals in the first half of their 69-63 loss against Washington. Arizona is like a lot of teams in the conference, as they do not have one player that can elevate them to victory on a consistent basis. Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji, who are both freshmen, have shown why they were top recruits at Arizona. However, they have not been able to lift the Wildcats to victory lately.

Colorado Is Simply Searching For Answers

The Buffaloes lost a controversial overtime game at Utah 74-72. Up 72-71, McKinley Wright was called for a foul on Utah guard Both Gach’s three-point shot. It was unclear if Wright even made contact with Gach on the play. However, Wright missed a pivotal free throw on the previous sequence. If Wright makes the first free throw, the Buffaloes get a chance to possibly go up by three points.

The Buffaloes were having a dream season, but a four-game losing streak has left them searching for answers. In reality, they ended the 2020 Pac-12 conference season with the same record (10-8) they had last year. This team is tournament-bound due to their performance in non-conference play, namely their win against a possible 1-seed in Dayton. However, they need to recapture the swagger they played with in January and the early part of February to have any shot at making noise in the postseason.

However, it is frustrating that the result of this game was basically determined on an official’s call at the end of overtime. Teams such as Colorado had everything to play for this past weekend, and the officials took center stage. Critical junctures in seasons call for players to perform at their best, and the Pac-12 needs to make sure their officials are performing at their best this week in the Pac-12 Tournament. Let the conference champion be determined by good basketball, not bad officiating.

Non-Conference Wins Difference for Presumptive Tournament Locks In Pac-12

Teams such as Stanford and UCLA are in precarious positions because they do not have a non-conference win that stands out. UCLA’s best win arguably was their road win against Colorado in Boulder, and Stanford’s best win is against Oregon at home. However, multiple teams, including Washington State and Oregon State, beat Oregon at home this season. There has been so much parity in Pac-12 conference play, that the teams that are considered safe bets to make the tournament are in that position because of how they performed in non-conference play. Oregon has huge wins against Seton Hall and Michigan. Colorado has a huge win against Dayton. Arizona has a quality non-conference win against Illinois.

The Pac-12 will get at least five teams into the tournament, but there are four teams (Arizona State, USC, UCLA, and Stanford) that face an uncertain Selection Sunday at this point. All four of these teams have arguments to get in the field, but some of their bubbles may burst on Selection Sunday. However, every team in the conference has a chance to make the tournament by winning the Pac-12 Tournament this week. With all the parity that has presided over the conference this season, it should be a fun tournament this week.

Alston v. NCAA: Judge Rules for Plaintiffs But NCAA Keeps Amateurism

Alston v.NCAA ruling on student athletes educational benefits

On March 8, 2019, amid the March Madness excitement, the highly anticipated ruling in the Alston v. NCAA case was released. In what appeared to be a victory for the plaintiffs, the NCAA still managed to come out essentially unscathed. Judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiffs. However, the NCAA was, unfortunately, able to retain a substantial amount of discretion over student-athlete compensation. Even though the plaintiffs won, the NCAA did not exactly lose.

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In the 104 page ruling, the court willingly acknowledged the disparity between what student-athletes receive in comparison to what coaches, the NCAA, and other college sports administration officials receive. However, that acknowledgment was not enough to make the court fully strip or severely limit the NCAA’s authority over student-athlete compensation that is unrelated to education. Thus, proving the courts’ and the general public’s inclination to refuse to acknowledge that there really is nothing “amateur” about college sports.

Alston v. NCAA Summary

Last fall, Judge Claudia Wilken presided over the Alston v. NCAA case. Judge Wilken also presided over the Obannon v. NCAA trial. In Alston, the plaintiffs included several current and former student-athletes. The defendants included the NCAA and eleven of its conferences that participate in FBS Football and Division I Basketball.

The plaintiffs challenged the legality of the NCAA and its’ member institutions practice of capping grants-in-aid at the cost-of-attendance based on federal antitrust laws. Contrarily, the defendants contended that the rules were necessary because they served several procompetitive purposes permissible under federal antitrust laws. However, only two procompetitive purposes were discussed at trial.

The Procompetitive Purposes Discussed at Trial

The first procompetitive purpose discussed at trial was that the rules were necessary to protect and promote amateurism and retain consumer interest in college athletics. Specifically, defendants argued that fans only engage in college sports because it is distinct from professional sports and that distinction is predicated on the fact that college athletes do not receive payment.

The second procompetitive purpose discussed at trial was that the rules were necessary to promote student-athlete integration into the greater college campus. Specifically, defendants argued that if student-athletes were paid above a cost-of-attendance scholarship other students would essentially become jealous and harbor resentment. The plaintiffs offered three alternatives to the current system. The court accepted a modified version of one of them.

The Alston Ruling

Judge Wilken ruled that the NCAA can no longer “limit compensation benefits related to education.” The ruling also mandated that the NCAA allow conferences to create their own rules and policies for scholarships. Essentially, the ruling will allow student-athletes to potentially receive a scholarship valued at greater than a “full ride” to college.

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Additionally, the NCAA will not be allowed to limit benefits related to education that is not included in the cost-of-attendance. Those benefits include items such as computers and musical instruments. In sum, the NCAA is no longer allowed to limit education-related benefits for student-athletes. This part of the ruling is essentially a win for the Plaintiffs. However, the ruling is not a total loss for the NCAA.

The Small, Yet Major Victory for the NCAA

The court found value in the defendants’ argument that the rules were necessary to serve the procompetitive purpose of keeping college sports distinct from professional sports. The defendants did not provide a clear definition of amateurism. However, the court reasoned that the distinction lied in the fact that college athletes are not paid unlimited sums unrelated to education.

With that, the court allowed the NCAA to maintain its ability to limit non-education related benefits for student-athletes. The NCAA is even permitted to define what “related to education” means. Thus, giving undue value to the NCAA’s farce of amateurism and the mythical distinction between college and professional sports.


Why do People Ignore the Other Similarities Between College and Professional Sports?

In response to the Alston ruling, the NCAA’s chief legal officer Donald Remy released a statement. Mr. Remy stated, “the decision acknowledges that the popularity of college sports stems in part from the fact that these athletes are indeed students who must not be paid unlimited cash sums unrelated to education.” This statement re-enforces the NCAA’s argument that rules limiting payment to college athletes are necessary to serve the procompetitive purpose of keeping college sports distinct from professional sports. However, is college sports really distinct from professional sports?

College Sports is not Very Distinct from Professional Sports

Aside from college athletes not being paid like professional athletes, there is no real distinction. For example, Division I college football and basketball garner very similar media deals that professional football and basketball garner. The March Madness tournament generates a billion dollars in revenue for the NCAA. Likewise, the NBA playoffs and Finals generates billions of dollars for the NBA. College football generates billions of dollars for the schools and the conferences. Professional football generates billions of dollars for the NFL and team owners. The coaches make millions in college sports, just as the coaches make millions in professional sports.

Given all of those similarities between college and professional sports, how can anyone claim that Division I college sports are largely distinct from professional sports? Why is payment unrelated to education the crux of the distinction between college and professional sports? Division I college sports resembles professional sports in almost every other way. However, the NCAA is still allowed to claim a distinction based on lack of payment to the athletes who propel the industry. Why are the courts and the public so willing to ignore the other similarities and give deference to a distinction that is largely predicated only on lack of payment?

The NCAA Twitter Account Keeps Getting Roasted During March Madness

NCAA Twitter keeps taking Losses During March Madness

It is college basketball’s favorite time of year, March Madness! It is also the NCAA’s favorite time of year. The non-profit organization rakes in big bucks from essentially free labor. While the NCAA may be all smiles financially, the organization has endured a public relations nightmare. Since the beginning of March Madness, the NCAA has been subject to some pretty heavy criticism via Twitter.

First, the NCAA faced well-founded criticism due to a commercial depicting a fairytale life for college athletes. The NCAA also faced criticism stemming from two tweets. In one tweet, the NCAA completely disregarded the women’s March Madness tournament. Lastly, the NCAA was criticized for a tweet from 2016. In that tweet, they seemingly boasted providing a benefit to college athletes that should be a given.

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The “Student-Athlete” Day in the Life Commercial

The NCAA released a commercial intending to depict a day in the life of a college athlete.

https://youtu.be/9tkhaW94HwY

In the above video, the athlete starts out in bed, goes straight to class, and then to practice. After practice, the athlete mingles with friends before playing in his game. After the game, the athlete studies before winding down to get a good night sleep. The athlete appears to be coasting through his day with no stress and no worries. He appears to have no problem balancing the challenges and responsibilities of being a student with those of being an athlete.

In sum, the commercial depicts a very false narrative of a perfect college athlete life. A life where college athletes maintain the perfect balance between academics, athletics, and social time. Anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to college athletics knows that the commercial cannot be representative of reality. It logistically does not make sense, especially when just one factor is considered. That factor is travel time for games. The miles between each game simply do not add up.  

The Commercial is not a True Representation

Consider the makeup of the Big 10 Conference. The Big 10 is made up of schools on the East Coast and the Midwest. Maryland and Rutgers are on the East Coast while Nebraska and Wisconsin are in the Midwest. When travel alone time is considered, there is no way that the depiction in the commercial can be accurate. There is no way college athletes are almost always able to leave their game, study, mingle with friends, and get sufficient sleep. This is especially true when early morning training sessions, team meetings, regular practice time, and individual practice time are added to the equation. Individual practice time is necessary to stay on top and earn playing time. Based on these factors alone, there is no way the commercial can be an accurate representation.

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The Commercial’s Inaccuracy Led to a Twitter Firestorm

Twitter instantly criticized the NCAA and the commercial. Everyone from college athlete rights advocates to pro athletes criticized the NCAA for the commercial. Some made videos of what is a more accurate representation of the daily life of a college athlete.

Current college athletes criticized the commercial, saying that it simply is not true. The commercial is completely unrealistic and only serves one purpose. That purpose is to further promote the sham of amateurism.

The NCAA was Rightfully Criticized for Their Tweet Ignoring the Women’s March Madness Tournament

The NCAA again faced well-deserved criticism when they made a tweet completely disregarding the women’s basketball tournament. Even WNBA star Breanna Stewart commented on the NCAA’s total disregard for the women’s tournament.

The tweet stated that they were no more March Madness games happening until Thursday. However, this was not true. The women’s basketball tournament was in full swing during the gap days of the men’s tournament. The NCAA again was instantly faced with another Twitter firestorm.

With that tweet, the NCAA showed how they really view the women’s tournament. The NCAA could have taken the days that the men were not playing as an opportunity to promote the women’s tournament. Instead, they completely disregarded the women’s tournament and further promoted the men’s tournament. This marketing misstep leads one to question just how much does the NCAA really value Title IX and creating equitable opportunities for women’s sports? Or is Title IX just another tool in the NCAA’s belt to justify not sharing more of the college athletics revenue with the athletes?

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The WiFi Tweet From 2016

The NCAA was forced to address a tweet from 2016 where they stated that they provide free Wifi to particpants in the March Madness tournament.

When the tweet resurfaced, it appeared that the NCAA was boasting about providing athletes with a resource that should automatically be given. However, the NCAA clarified that they made the tweet in 2016 to address accounts that college athletes did not have the WiFi access needed to complete their assignments. The NCAA’s tweet was in response to a tweet from a college basketball player in 2016 who tweeted about not having internet access to do his school work.

However, the real issue is in the fact that such a tweet was even necessary at all. It should have never been a question about whether the NCAA made sure that the participating athletes had everything they needed. After all, the NCAA prides its self on providing college athletes an opportunity to get an invaluable education. However, the NCAA and the college athletics system as a whole has been under much criticism for its inability to live up to the reality of that ideal. It is precisely for that reason, that an old tweet from 2016 can resurface in 2019 and instantly cause another Twitter firestorm for the NCAA.

The NCAA Could Avoid These Firestorms if They Shared the Wealth

The NCAA could save itself from a lot of these Twitter firestorms by sharing more revenue with college athletes. If the NCAA allowed college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness, their image would improve drastically. However, the NCAA is unlikely to ever do that. The NCAA certainly will not do that while they are fighting to reclaim the ability to limit the amount of education-related benefits college athletes can receive. It seems that the NCAA prefers to fight PR nightmares than to give college athletes a more equitable piece of the pie.

Duke And The Favorites Advancing In NCAA Tournament Is A Good Thing

March Madness betting favorites advanced in the NCAA tournament Duke and North carolina

With just under two minutes left in the second round game between UCF and Duke, the Knights lead the Blue Devils 74-70. UCF had Duke on the ropes and were ready for the kill shot. UFC stole the ball and had a 2-on-1 fast break. UCF’s Dayon Griffin threw a lob pass to Aubrey Dawkins, who finished with 32 points, and had it been successful, the Knights would have been up 6 with all the momentum against one of the betting favorites to win it all. Instead, this happened.


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We all know how the rest played out.

A couple questionable no-calls, some fortuitous bounces, and a missed put back helped Duke squeak out a 77-76 victory over UCF as the Blue Devils move on to the Sweet 16. Top seeds advancing to the Sweet 16 was the common theme this past weekend as all of the betting favorites won in the second round.

Although all of the favorites won, chalk is not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s say UCF beat Duke. That’s an awesome moment for UCF and its fans. However, to the common basketball fan, are you tuning in to watch UCF vs. Virginia Tech for a trip to the Elite 8? Or, would you rather watch Zion Williamson, Rj Barrett, and Duke play Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16? Unless you’re a UCF fan, my guess is that you’d rather watch Duke.

The NCAA Tournament is known as “March Madness,” but this year, it’s the furthest thing from chaos. There was a significant gap all season long between the top 10 teams and the rest of Division I. That growing sentiment came to fruition as all the top seeds took care of business this past weekend. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Cinderella stories are awesome. Watching a double digit seed fight their way through each round and advance to the Final Four is both entertaining and inspiring. Rooting for Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago last season was a great story. However, there’s a reason why upsets rarely happen and that’s because of the talent disparity between the blue blood programs like Duke and UNC and the mid-major Cinderella stories like Loyola-Chicago or Wichita State. A Cinderella story is most likely a flash in the pan. Remember when Tim Tebow made the playoffs or “Linsanity” took over the Knicks? Those two athletes took the world by storm for a brief period of time and it was spectacular to witness. However, just like in Cinderella, the clock always strikes midnight. Tim Tebow never got another chance to start at quarterback and Jeremy Lin hasn’t been a star since. You know why? Tim Tebow may have won a few games, but Tom Brady wins Super Bowls. Jeremy Lin may dazzle for a few weeks, but LeBron James wins championships. Loyola Chicago and George Mason may win a region, but Duke, UNC, and Kentucky are staples in the Final Four

And you know what? That’s ok. The biggest gripe with the tournament is that the best team in the country does not always win it all. This year, one of the best teams in the country will win. Duke, UNC, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Gonzaga have all been in the top 3 at some point this year. Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, LSU, Texas Tech, Houston, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Florida State have all been ranked inside the top 15. The only outlier is Oregon, but the Ducks have won 10 straight and are two years removed from a Final Four appearance.

The tournament has not been as exciting as year’s past, but there is hope on the horizon. There is a lot of good basketball to play from the best teams in the country. For now, chalk is fine by me.

How the NCAA Tournament Generates Billions From March Madness

NCAA Tournament generates billions for coaches bonuses from March Madness

March Madness 2019 is in full swing. The NCAA’s cash cow basketball tournament started on March 19th and is slated to make billions in revenue. The NCAA tournament has college basketball fans abuzz about who will be this year’s victor. In the midst of all of the excitement, the NCAA continues to face well-deserved criticism for its exploitive college athletics system. Even famed sports broadcaster Dick Vitale weighed in and stated that he believes that it is time that college basketball players get paid. Well-respected industry leaders addressing the injustices of college basketball’s premier event leads one to seriously question just how much money is at stake in March Madness?

March Madness is the NCAA’s Cash Cow

2017 was a monumental year for the NCAA. It was the first year the NCAA cleared one billion dollars in revenue. That is right the NCAA, a non-profit organization, cleared one billion dollars in revenue. Where on Earth did all of that money come from?

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The Bulk of the Money Comes From Marketing and Television Rights for March Madness and a few Other Sources

A huge chunk of the NCAA’s revenue comes from its broadcasting deal for March Madness. In 2016, the NCAA extended their contract with CBS Sports and Turner, a division of Time Warner, for the broadcasting rights of the Men’s March Madness basketball tournament. The extension, which runs through 2032, added 8 years and 8.8 billion dollars to the original contract. Essentially, the new deal will pay an average of 1.1 billion dollars per season.

As a result of the contract extension, the NCAA made $817,517,801 from television and marketing rights fees in 2017. Also in 2017, the NCAA made $128,113,594 from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and other tournaments such as the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). The average price paid for tickets in 2018 was $1,845 for the full Final Four experience and a mere $1,010 for the championship game only.

From these numbers, it should be clear why Dick Vitale and college athlete rights advocates contend revenue generating athletes should be paid. Clearly, there is enough money. Without the athletes, the NCAA would not have a product to negotiate a deal like the one with CBS Sports and Turner. Fans tune in to see the best of the best compete. That very fact is what gave the NCAA the leverage for that billion dollar deal.

NCAA tournament television revenue coaches bonuses

The NCAA is not the Only Beneficiaries – Colleges, Conferences, and Coaches Benefit too

The Big Payday for Colleges and Conferences

After the net is cut and the trophy is presented, colleges and their respective conferences await a big payday. A portion of the March Madness revenue is paid out to the colleges and conferences. Colleges use the money for a variety of things, including scholarships and funding for non-revenue sports. Division 1 conferences get the bulk of the money. The NCAA considers a variety of factors when distributing the money. Those factors include support of non-revenue sports, performance in the tournament over six years, and the number of full-rides given to athletes.

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In 2016, the Big 10 received the biggest payout at $57,540,348. The Western Coast Conference came in at number ten on the list at $8,192,085. The conferences funnel the money down to the schools. The largest payment to a school came in 2016 when Stanford University was paid $3,250,544. From these numbers, is it is clear why the debate regarding payment for revenue-generating college athletes is such a hot topic. Clearly, there is enough money. 

Coaches Receive Huge Bonus Incentives

Similar to Division 1 college football coaches receiving bonuses for bowl game appearances, Division 1 college basketball coaches receive bonuses for March Madness appearances. Basketball coaches receive bonuses for merely advancing to the tournament. Some even receive a bonus for a victory in the first round of the tournament. The bonus incentive increases as the team progresses to each level of the tournament. The levels include the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and the Final Four.

If Arizona State’s head coach Bobby Hurley won the 2018 title, he would have received up to $1.4 million in bonuses above his base salary. The simple fact that $1.4 million in bonuses could have been paid to Hurley for coaching a winning team totally disproves the argument that there is not enough money floating around to pay the athletes. Clearly, there is enough money.

March Madness is Big Business for Everyone Except the Athletes

It appears that everyone, expect the labor force is able to profit from March Madness. Everyone from the NCAA down to the locales where the games are held rake in millions of dollars from the tournament. Even the least watched games will generate millions of dollars for their universities. However, the players will be limited to their scholarship. For the next few weeks, fans will be bombarded with March Madness ads using the likeness of athletes who would be guilty of NCAA violations if they individually promoted that same image. This is March Madness, the NCAA’s billion-dollar cash cow.


NCAA Tournament March Madness Round 1: From the Front Row

March Madness round 1 Oregon vs Wisconsin UC Irvine college basketball

March Madness is Even More Exciting in Person

The SAP Center in San Jose, Ca hosted round 1 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament in San Jose, Ca. The March Madness round of 64 was without a doubt some of the most exciting showcases we have seen in a while. It was a joy to watch from nearly the front row.

Walking in on the arena floor and staring up into the seats it was easy to feel the buzz in the air. To misquote the great Jim Nance, The NCAA Tournament is a tradition like no other. Parents, friends, families, alumni, and fans all gather from various places and descend to take part in March Madness.

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To pull back the curtain of separation between fan and sportswriter just a bit, I have covered many different events in my short time as a sportswriter but nothing quite like this. I have covered chalk talks, football games, conference championship games, and nothing gave me the jitters and feelings of sentiment quite like this.

The Tournament is a special thing yet continued to be a generational bridge in love of sports. Everyone appreciates the pageantry of March Madness. The passion of college athletics and fandoms alike as 64 teams are all equal in search of achieving the same common goal, cutting down the nets in US Bank Stadium.

UC Irvine vs Kansas State

The UC Irvine Anteaters took on the Kansas State Wildcats in the opening game of the day. In what was a back and forth contest all the way up until the last 1:25 seconds of the game we were treated to run and counter run. Junior guards Max Hazzard #2 and Evan Leonard both scored 19 points in the contest and were the last scorers in the first and second halves.

The Anteaters achieved their first ever NCAA tournament win and a classic #13 seed over #4 seed upset 70-64. It took a complete team effort every man on the bench was of vital importance as they wore down the Wildcats with their open court attack.

Nothing is better in the NCAA tourney than an upset. It brings out the best in fans and underdogs whom nobody gave a chance. The Anteaters had very little belief outside of their players and fanbase but it was clear they belonged from the start.

Winning in the tournament meant the world to their fanbase who made the trek down to support their team. The Anteaters haven’t lot since January, however they find themselves with a difficult round two matchup in the University of Oregon. The Anteaters expected this outcome because they know how much work they have put in to get here. Victory is the ultimate reward for focus dedication and execution.

Oregon Ducks vs Wisconsin Badgers

The Oregon Ducks did battle with the Wisconsin Badgers in the second matchup of the afternoon. Early on it was a chess match, as the two teams felt each other out. Back and forth it would go in a bit of a defensive struggle, at the half the teams would find themselves tied at 25.

And then Oregon head coach Dana Altman would go into the locker room and whatever he said, whatever he drew up on the whiteboard was absolute magic. It would spark the #12 seeded Ducks to produce the second upset of the day in a runaway over #5 ranked Wisconsin 72-54.

RS Sr. Paul White opened up the half on absolute fire. He scored in the paint he scored from behind the three-point line, and he scored from the free throw line. Within 9 minutes of the second half, White went 4-4 from the field, 2-2 from deep, and 2-2 at the line. Providing the Ducks the spark they needed to take flight.

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Kenny Wooten Jr. was sensational and a major reason why the Ducks were able to go on a run and nearly double up the Badgers in the second half. Wooten was the defensive enforcer and no shot or layup was safe when he was in proximity. Wooten possesses the unique ability of being able to damn near jump out of the gym.

His bounce was magnificent and he soared up and over all of the Badgers futile shot attempts. Wooten slapped layups off the backboard, he got clean stuffs, and this one time at March Madness he swatted a shot off the court from just outside the paint.

Winners of four straight and the Pac-12 Championship the Ducks are thrilled to have this moment yet remain focused on the larger picture, winning a championship.

Liberty Eagles vs Mississippi State Bulldogs

#12 seed Liberty University Eagles and #5 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs was a true underdog story. The Bulldogs led for 29:34 seconds of the game. They held the lead up until about the final 2:30 seconds of the game. The Eagles dug deep and when they needed stops and timely shooting they got them.

Redshirt Jr. Caleb Homesley drop a region-leading 30 points on the Bulldogs, going 10-16 from the field, 5-11 from deep, and 5-6 at the charity stripe. Myo Baxter-Bell was a beast down low and out of his 13 points the last four free-throws actually sealed the game for the Eagles by continuing to extend the score in the closing moments of regulation.

The Bulldogs played a great game for 36 minutes but the lone 10 point run they gave up was the difference in the game. Guards Lamar Peters #2 and Quinndary Weatherspoon #11 scored 21 and 27 points respectively and kept their team moving along in the led. Unfortunately down the stretch when they couldn’t score nobody else stepped up for the Bulldogs.

Saint Louis Billikens vs Virginia Tech Hokies

The final game of the evening pit the #15 seed Saint Louis University Billikins against the #4 seed Virginia Tech Hokies. After an upsetting evening to the favorites the Hokies restored the natural selection balance. SLU was outclassed across the board, the court and the sideline and it showed.

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Lacking a low post scoring presence allowed the Hokies to run a defense which looked like a combination of a 3-2 zone and a half court trap and it completely baffled the Billikin’s offense.

It took the SLU offense nearly 15 minutes to acquire double digits in points. Up close it appeared they only were allowed to score because the coach of the Hokies chose not to employ his trap strategy on every possession.

Meanwhile there was nothing the SLU defense could throw at the Hokies that they weren’t ready for. The Hokies went to the rack at will, had no problems locating and converting shots, and to further assert dominance went coast to coast on inbounds numerous times.

SLU trailed by 15-20 points for the majority of the game until they began making a push halfway through the 2nd half to cut the lead to ten. The Hokies responded by going back to the trap defense and it re-stymied the Billikin offense all over again. 66-52 would be the final score and conclude an excellent opening round of basketball.

March Madness: Top 5 Greatest Moments In NCAA Tournament History

Greatest March Madness shots Christian Laettner

As College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein likes to say, “This is March.” Welcome to one of the best times of the year, March Madness. For my money, the first two days of the NCAA Tournament are the two best sporting days of the year. There’s nothing better than 32 basketball games that are full of non-stop action, buzzer beaters, and the agony of defeat. I challenge you to name anything better in sports than those two days.

There are so many unforgettable March Madness moments that you began to lose track of them. It seems that every buzzer-beater gets better and better. Narrowing the list down to five is almost impossible, but I’m going to give you my most top 5 moments in NCAA Tournament History. Let the debate begin.

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5. George Mason’s Magical Run To The Final Four

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George Mason walked so that Sister Jean could run. Before VCU, Wichita State, and Loyola Chicago made their magical runs to the Final Four; there was George Mason. In 2006, the George Mason Patriots made one of the greatest runs to the Final Four as an 11 seed. Keep in mind that George Mason did not even win their conference that year. The Patriots lost in the CAA semis to Hofstra and had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. The committee granted George Mason with an 11 seed, and the rest was history. On their historic run, George Mason knocked off Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Gregg Marshall, and Jim Calhoun. Beating three Hall of Fame coaches on the way to the Final Four is pretty damn impressive. It wasn’t always pretty, but George Mason’s grit and toughness overcame the odds to reach the Final Four.

4. The Legend Of Steph Curry

There’s putting on a show, and then there’s what Steph Curry did in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Steph Curry was not on any NBA radars back in 2008. Steph was a talented shooter, but most people only recognized him because of his last name and his father, Dell, who played in the NBA. That all changed with one legendary NCAA tournament run. Look at these numbers that Steph posted in a four game stretch.

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128 points in 4 games is insane. Keep in mind that Davidson was a #10 seed and was one shot away from making the Final Four. Steph’s range and ability to create his own shot were put on full display, and NBA scouts took notice. Now, Curry is arguably the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA. It all started with a magical run in the tournament.

3. Kris Jenkins Wins The National Championship For Villanova

Not all buzzer beaters are created equal. Winning in the first round from a buzzer beater is cool, but winning the National Championship with a buzzer beater is iconic. Under Jay Wright, Villanova was always a solid team, but could never put it all together when it really mattered. It wasn’t until 2013 that Villanova consistently became one of the best teams in the country. From 2013-2018, Villanova accumulated a record of 165 wins and 21 with two National Championships. Everything about this play is awesome. The presence of mind to flip back to Jenkins as Grant Hill says to “watch Jenkins.” Nantz says “for the championship” as the ball goes in is such a perfect moment. Plus, the confetti cannons going off while pandemonium ensues is incredible.

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2. Jimmy V Looks For A Hug

I mentioned that George Mason walked so that the other Cinderellas could run. Well, Jim Valvano and NC State crawled so that George Mason could walk. NC State upsetting Houston in the championship of the 1983 NCAA Tournament is one of the greatest upsets of all time. I highly recommend watching Survive and Advance, an ESPN 30 for 30 which chronicles Jimmy V and that 1983 NC State team that won it all. NC State was able to overcome a “Phi Slama Jama” which had two future Hall of Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Lorenzo Charles’s dunk at the last second to win the title was special, but Jimmy V looking for someone to hug after the game is the defining image from this game.

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1. Christian Laettner Hits The Shot

Love him or hate him, and most people hate him, there’s no denying the fact that Christian Laettner was one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. In 1992, Mike Krzyzewski and the number one seed Duke squared off against Rick Pitino and the number two seed Kentucky in the Elite 8 to determine the last spot in the Final Four. With 2.1 seconds in overtime, Duke, the defending National Champion, was down 1 point with the ball. Grant Hill threw a full court heave to Laettner, who caught the ball at the free throw line, had the presence of mind to take a dribble, and nailed the game winning shot as time expired. This game is widely considered as the greatest game in the history of the NCAA Tournament. What’s so underrated about the game is Laettner’s stat line. Laettner finished the game with 31 points and 7 rebounds, which sounds like a good day from the office. However, Laettner was 10 for 10 from the field and 10 for 10 from the free throw line. Laettner was perfect and so was his shot.

What are your most unforgettable moments from the NCAA Tournament? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

UCF: CFB Playoffs Can Never Be Better than March Madness Until Cinderella Gets In

The College Football Playoffs committee’s failure to pick the University of Central Florida (UCF) for the second year in a row is proof that the tournament will never be as exciting as March Madness. Every year when March Madness begins fans are at the edge of their seats waiting to see what likely championship contender will fall prey to the tournament’s “Cinderella” team. For example, in last years tournament, the very unlikely University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) knocked off the University of Virginia. The emergence of a “Cinderella” team is a major part of what makes March Madness so exciting.  However, the College Football Playoffs (CFP) is unlikely to ever experience the excitement of a  “Cinderella” team. The committee’s failure to give UCF a bid in the tournament for two years is proof of this.

For the last two seasons, UCF has been unstoppable. UCF finished their 2017 and 2018 seasons undefeated for a combined 25-0 record. Despite having two perfect seasons and knocking off Auburn after they beat Alabama, UCF was not extended the opportunity to be the possible “Cinderella” team in the College Football Playoffs (CFP) either year. If UCF beats LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 they would have defeated the SEC elite in back to back seasons. With two perfect seasons, why is UCF being overlooked? The structure of the CFP is to blame.

Participants in the college football playoffs are chosen by the CFP committee.  The committee considers a number of factors. Those factors are not favorable to teams, like UCF, who are not in Power Five conferences. Accordingly, the CFP structure does not allow a team such as UCF to be eligible for the tournament no matter how perfect their season. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the CFP will ever experience the excitement of a “Cinderella” team swooping through the tournament and upsetting the most likely championship contender. This is precisely why the College Football Playoffs needs to be expanded to include more teams.

College Football Playoffs Structure Neglects Non-Power Five Schools

General success during the football season does not equate to automatic CFP eligibility – obviously. The CFP committee considers several factors in addition to on-field performance.  The committee considers the number of games lost, the point spread in games, and the strength of each schools schedule. The strength of the schedule is judged based on the teams each school faces. Schools with tougher schedules are given more weight during CFP selections.

In most cases, schools in the Power Five conferences are considered to be the tougher schools. Due to this, schools that are not in Power Five conferences, like UCF,  are unlikely to get a real chance at the CFP. Group of Five schools, such as UCF,  find it difficult to schedule games with Power Five schools.  The lack of such games on the schedule makes it extremely difficult for Group of Five schools to clinch a spot in the CFP. This is exactly where UCF fell short in the CFP considerations.  A substantial amount of UCF’s victories were not against what is considered a “strong” school.

Group of Five Schools Must Face the “Right” Power Five School

It is not sufficient for a Group of Five School to face just any Power Five school. The school must face the “right” Power Five school.  This is also evidenced by UCF.  Over their last two seasons, UCF successfully faced the University of Maryland of the Big 10 and the University of Pittsburgh of the ACC.  However, these games were not enough to give UCF a leg up in the strength of schedule category.

Some may argue that UCF should have been given serious consideration by the CFP committee for the 2018 CFP based on their win against Auburn in last year’s Peach Bowl.  Auburn beat Alabama in last year’s SEC championship.  Alabama went on to win the CFP last year. Accordingly, some argued that UCF could possibly be defending the CFP title this year. Unfortunately, the fact that UCF defeated Auburn in last year’s Peach Bowl had no bearing on the CFP committee’s considerations in 2018.

However, that did not stop fans from fantasizing about what would have happened if UCF had been given their due. Some fans made the logical leap that UCF may have defeated Alabama in the CFP if given the opportunity. Some UCF fans went as far as to attempt to bait Alabama into facing UCF to settle the debate regarding who is the true national champion. As exciting as that game would be, it will probably never happen.

Since Such a Match-up is Unlikely to Happen, the CFP will Never be as Exciting as March Madness

Since the CFP structure does not favor “underdog” teams, the tournament will always have a certain level of predictability. A tournament that is too predictable simply is not exciting. That is the beauty of the March Madness tournament, its unpredictable nature.  Yes, there are teams that are in it every year. Teams such as North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky are almost certain to make an appearance every year.  At the same time, any of those teams could get knocked off by the most unlikely opponent.

For example, in 2012 the underdog Norfolk State University beat Missouri.  Missouri was heavily slated to go to the Final Four and was unpredictably knocked off by the most unlikely opponent. Games like that are the excitement of the March Madness Tournament. The CFP is unlikely to ever know that excitement as long as underdogs like UCF are never given a chance to play on the CFP stage. For this reason, the CFP should be expanded to give more teams an opportunity to play on college football’s grandest stage. As long as the qualifications for CFP consideration remain, the CFP will never be as exciting as March Madness.