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Opinion

March Madness is a Losing Bet

May 10, 2019
Aaron Kirkpatrick

Bethesda, Maryland, United States

The NCAA Basketball Tournament has many misconceptions. The first one is that everyone has a chance to win the championship; even though that is mathematically true, it isn’t true in reality. The other is that, for most teams in the tournament, your seed means nothing on how easy your way to winning is.

Some quick background for you is that since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, out of the 296 teams that have played in the tournament, only 174 of those teams have actually won a game. This statistic means that 41% of those schools have not once won a game. It is obvious that within the first round, it is more likely for the first seed to have a better win rate than second seed, for second seed to have a better win rate than the third seed, and so on and so forth. But when you move onto the second round, seeds ten, eleven, and twelve actually do better and have a better win rate than the 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th, and 16th. That is most simply explained based off how poorly the NCAA tournament is designed. The problem is that, after the first round, instead of reseeding and putting the best team against the worst team just like it is in the first round, they leave it up to fate. That is then shown in the sweet 16 because an 8 seed has a 3 times better win rate than a 5 seed, and an 11 seed has almost double the win rate than the 5 seed.

Why is this so? It is because the 5 seed has to play the 1 seed, so the name of the game is if you want to win, stay away from the 1 seed. This lack of restructure in the tournament creates a major fall of in how far teams go. Going back to the information that was given about 41% of teams not winning a single game it is expanded even more. 62% of teams have never made it to the sweet 16, 75% of teams have never reached the elite eight, and 84% of teams have never made the final four. This happens because the middle-seeded teams end up having the play the 1 seed, giving them a minimal chance of moving on. All of that combined gives you the crazy statistic that, out of the 296 schools that have played in the tournament, 4% of those schools make up 58% of all final four berths.  So even though there is the idea of everyone having a chance at winning that isn’t exactly true. This tournament is meant to produce more losers than winners and so the idea that everyone has a possibility to win is true, but realistically the winner belongs to a small group way ahead of the first game even being played. I would say enjoy your Cinderella dreams, but that is all they are dreams. Hopefully your bracket isn’t too busted, but if it is just enjoy the madness that is March.

Aaron Kirkpatrick is an Aleph from Northern Region East: DC and loves being a punter.

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