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You’re Nuts: What is your unpopular opinion about the NCAA Tournament?

Everyone has strong feelings about the Big Dance — here’s what we think.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four National Semifinals-Florida Atlantic vs San Diego State Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about what we would do if we were in charge of our favorite position group, team, conference, or sport. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all our “Unpopular Opinion” articles here.

To stay with the greater theme of “Unpopular Opinion”, the men who bring you the “Bucketheads” podcast each month are debating the NCAA Tournament this week. Connor and Justin each have an opinion on the big dance — read on to find out just how unhinged our basketball writers really are.

Last week, the guys debated which 2024 recruit Ohio State men’s basketball should prioritize in this cycle — in addition to the No. 43 player in the class, Juni Mobley, who is already committed. Connor said the Buckeyes should prioritize (former) Cincinnati big man Tyler McKinley (No. 59 overall) and Justin said Chris Holtmann and Co. should focus on IMG Academy forward Amier Ali (No. 34 overall).

56% of the people agreed with Connor/McKinley, 36% sided with Justin/Ali, and the final 8% said it should be a different recruit from those two.

After 102 weeks:

Justin- 45
Connor- 42
Other- 11

(There have been four ties)

This week, we’re sharing our most out of left field, ridiculous, unpopular opinions regarding the NCAA Tournament. Everyone has their thoughts on the Big Dance. Here’s what our guys think.

Today’s Question: What is your unpopular opinion about the NCAA Tournament?

Connor: It’s not as important as fans make it out to be

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

This might be an unpopular opinion, or this might be very reasonable — I’m not sure.

The NCAA Tourament is the best event in all of sports, especially the first weekend. Nets are cut, banners are won, and legends are born in March. All of the work that teams do during the season is to sweeten their resume for the tournament, to give themselves a better chance to advance in the win-or-go-home, high stakes NCAA Tournament.

And, despite that, I’m telling you it’s not nearly as important as most fans make it out to be.

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is my favorite week of the year for the sheer fun and excitement of it all. But if you zoom the lens out a bit more, the NCAA Tournament is not how you define the success of a team in any given year. The tournament is single-elimination, and often times teams don’t have much time to prepare for their next opponent. Because of this, you get some fluky losses every season. A great regular season team losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament does not mean they were not a great team. They just did not play well on that given day.

Does Ohio State’s loss to Oral Roberts in 2021 mean that the two-seed they earned was meaningless, and that the 20-win season was meaningless? Of course not. Does Kentucky losing to St. Peter’s in 2022 mean that Kentucky team was just bad? Hell no.

That’s why so few college basketball coaches — unlike professsional coaches — are fired simply based on their record in the NCAA Tournament. In the NBA, you have to lose a best of seven series to get booted. If you are continuously losing playoff series year after year, you’re creating a trend that has a large body of work to back it up. But NCAA basketball coaches only get one 40-minute opportunity per season to advance. There’s no losing your first NCAA Tournament game, but being able to bounce back to win games two through five, like in the NBA.

I also think that winning a regular season conference title means more to basketball programs than NCAA Tournament success, unless a team makes a deep, deep run in the dance. I think if you polled fans, coaches, and players, they’d all rather win their respective conference title and hang a banner in their home arena than win one or two NCAA Tournament games in a given year. Now, if we’re talking a Final Four run, that trumps winning the Big Ten. But in general, winning your conference is going to carry more weight than making a little run in the NCAA Tournament.

To tie up the rant — the NCAA Tournament is a blast, and being successful at it is imperative for successful programs. But it is not the end all, be all of success in college basketball. Wining your respective conference holds just as much — if not more — weight. And the flukiness of it all makes it harder to criticize when things don’t go well.

Justin: Upsets hurt the tournament overall

I know. I know. Upsets are the identity and the brand of the tournament. And while they are fun to try to predict and fun to talk about when they happen, I am not as fond of them as I used to be.

And I will be honest. My opinion of this does seemingly line up with Oral Roberts taking down Ohio State in a huge upset in the 2021 NCAA tournament. Maybe I am just jaded. Maybe I have a good point. I probably don’t.

Here is my reasoning for this. I do think there is merit to the higher seeds, and sometimes the Blue Bloods getting further in the tournament makes for a more interesting matchup. And I say this looking at college basketball as a more casual fan than I am.

I am a diehard college basketball fan. I will watch Siena play Merrimack on a Tuesday night on ESPN Plus and love it. That could also say something about my personal life, but that is neither here nor there.

But, if you aren’t me and are more of a college basketball casual fan, last year’s Final Four of Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Villanova was likely much more interesting than this year of UConn, Miami (Fl), Florida Atlantic, and San Diego State. It is not that those teams are less talented, but when the names are more recognizable, it just helps the viewership, which helps grow the product.

I am not just saying this, the numbers back it up. According to Forbes, the men’s championship game on CBS averaged a record low of 14.69 million viewers. For UConn, it was their fifth national title since 1999. The audience delivery was a 15% drop-off from last season’s game which averaged 17.05 million across TBS, TNT, and TruTV. This year’s audience delivery follows a trend. Four of the least watched men’s basketball championship games whether on Turner Sports or CBS have been played since 2018.

Also, when higher seeds (1-4) lose early on, you tend to get more blowouts later in the tournament when those Cinderella teams run out of luck.

Basically, upsets are great for four days, but they tend to hurt the product as a whole. Don’t shoot the messenger.


Whose unpopular opinion is more reasonable?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    It’s not as important as we sometimes make it out to be (Connor)
    (4 votes)
  • 69%
    Upsets hurt the tournament overall (Justin)
    (9 votes)
13 votes total Vote Now