March Madness is the annual championship college basketball tournament for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams. Being one of the most popular sporting events in America, each year fans everywhere make brackets and follow their respective teams as well as other competitors in the tournament religiously. This year, both men’s and women’s NCAA March Madness was full of intrigue and upsets.
Women’s March Madness began with 64 teams. The top seeds for were Baylor, Louisville, Notre Dame and Mississippi State. A surprising decision was that University of Connecticut wasn’t awarded a number 1 seed this year by the committee, despite going 31-2, although their two losses were to Baylor and Louisville, both number 1 seeds. Though there were numerous and memorable upset games throughout the tournament, nothing could have prepared us for the nail-biter finale of the series. Baylor just barely edged out Notre Dame in a 82-81 game after Baylor lost a substantial lead in the fourth quarter, only to regain it in the last few seconds.
Men’s March Madness began with 68 teams instead of 64, and goes through seven rounds of single elimination to determine a winner each year. The top seeds for men’s March Madness this year were Duke, Virginia, North Carolina and Gonzaga. Fans were extremely interested to see Virginia’s performance this year, after they were on the wrong end of one of the most stunning upsets in NCAA history in 2018, as 16th seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) defeated number 1 seed Virginia. Duke ended up being one of the bigger disappointments of men’s March Madness this year after the team fell short to Michigan State. The final game was between Virginia and Texas Tech, and Virginia took the victory, which was a nice redemption for them considering the disappointing upset of their previous season.
An interesting aspect of March Madness to remember is that most of the top players in men’s March Madness are freshmen, because the best male players typically enter the draft after their freshman year, while the best female players are usually juniors and seniors. This happens because men get millions of dollars in signing bonuses as draft picks, which incentivizes them to leave college early so they can get paid top dollar. Women, however, make a mere fraction of this in signing bonuses, and make virtually nothing compared to National Basketball Association (NBA) players throughout their career. Thus, women are more likely to continue their college careers in pursuit of a national championship. While exciting, March Madness reflects some of our nation’s priorities and the inequalities that persist throughout the sport.