By Collin Giuliani// Staff Writer
The NCAA Tournament is one of the most anticipated annual sporting events of the year in the United States. According to a report by Challenger, Gary & Christmas, companies lose anywhere between $615 million and $2.1 billion per hour during the tournament in worker productivity. A 2014 report from Smithsonian Magazine found that roughly 60 million people fill out brackets every year, and this year, over 18 million filled out a bracket on ESPN.com, the highest number in the website’s history.
One of the reasons why the tournament is such a marquee event is because it is synonymous with chaos. The tournament is the time of year where upsets happen. Even though a 16-seed has never beaten a one-seed, a 15-seed has beaten a two-seed four times since 2012, including last year, when Middle Tennessee upset Michigan State, one of the favorites to win the title. With games taking place all throughout the day, and with buzzer-beating shots (such as Kris Jenkins in last year’s championship game for Villanova over North Carolina) seemingly happening once per day, March Madness normally lives up to the hype.
So what happened this year?
This year’s March Madness can be defined for the lack of chaos. For the first time since 2007, there were no first round upsets involving any of the top four seeds in a region. A 14-seed has won a tournament game over a three-seed team five times since 2013 and in each of the past four seasons but this year, only one of the games between the two seeds was decided by 15 or fewer points. In seven of the last nine years prior to 2017, a 13-seed defeated a four-seed in the first round. It happened last year when Hawaii beat California by a final score of 77-66. This year, however, only one game between a four-seed and a 13-seed was decided by 10 or fewer points.
The signature upset between the 5-seed and the 12-seed didn’t happen in 2017. In four of the past five years, multiple 12-seeds won a tournament game over a five-seed. However, this year, only one of the 12-seeds was able to pull off a victory, when Middle Tennessee defeated Minnesota. Even though Middle Tennessee was a 12-seed, they were the favorites to win the game according to Las Vegas, so this five-seed vs. 12-seed upset wasn’t even an upset. Entering the Final Four, a bracket that went all chalk (predicting no upsets and only picking the higher seeds to win every game) would be in the 98th percentile. By comparison, an all chalk bracket last year would have only been in the 84th percentile.
The buzzer beaters that March Madness has become iconic for have been nonexistent. In the 60 games leading up to the Final Four, only one game featured a buzzer beater that either won the game or sent it into overtime (Chris Chiozza’s shot for the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin). While there have been close games in this tournament, the final possessions of these games are often decided by poor basketball, or “hero ball,” where the player will set up for and then take a heavily contested shot for no reason.
Without buzzer beaters and without the upsets that college basketball fans are used to seeing around this time of year, March Madness has been rather dull. Sure, there have been some good story lines, such as South Carolina and head coach Frank Martin making it to the Final Four for the first time in school history, Northwestern making the tournament for the first time ever (the Wildcats, who have been looking for their first tournament bid since 1939, not only made the tournament, but won a game), and Gonzaga finally getting the monkey off of their back and making it to their first Final Four in school history. But if the games have not been intriguing, the shots have not been memorable, and the bracket busters have been predominantly absent, then is it truly a good tournament?
Instead of feeling like March Madness, it feels more like March Mildness.