The theory of endless gameplay of one’s favorite sport is certainly enticing. Raising the stakes even higher, these games comprise the first round of the playoffs which guarantees that the players will be giving their best effort. Even to a modest fan, this must appear genuinely intriguing and worthwhile.
For the aforementioned reasons, the first round of the NCAA Tournament is unlike any other two days in sports. Over a 48-hour span, 64 teams will compete. An average college basketball game lasts for about two and half hours. At over 80 hours broadcast gameplay, the first round provides more than enough content to be consumed, causing college basketball fans across the country to collectively rejoice.
What makes the Round of 64 so unique, however, is that it appeals to not only true fans of the sport, but also casual fans and those unassociated with a sport. No other sport can make the claim that the first round of its playoffs are so compelling while also giving the fans so much content.
Sixty-four universities are represented by the pool of teams in the first round of the tournament. The fans, students and faculty from each school who are not already followers of college basketball often have an interest of some sort in the Round of 64. Aside from the fans or students of that school, those respective cities are now represented as well. The University of North Dakota making the tournament in 2017, for example, provides the entire state with some interest to the tournament because now their state is represented. The 2017 NCAA Tournament represented 28 states, well beyond that of any other major sport’s first round of playoffs.
Every year we follow many different storylines in the Round of 64 that garner unique interest. The University of Southern California vs Southern Methodist University pit Los Angeles against Dallas, a battle of two marquee American cities where each would love to defeat the other. USC pulled off the 11-6 seed upset, winning 66-65 in a thriller that came down to a missed layup at the buzzer by SMU. College basketball powerhouse and No. 3-seed Florida State barely escaped an upset bid from in-state rival and No. 14-seed Florida Gulf Coast, which was a compelling game where the viewer couldn’t resist but to cheer for the underdog. Though the seeding suggests Florida State should win handily, the premise that anything can happen is reinforced time and time again which creates the can’t miss feeling of every game.
Perhaps the most immersive part of the tournament has nothing to do with watching the games. Creating a bracket and predicting the winners has become one of the biggest sports crazes alongside fantasy football and betting odds on big games. Fans take into consideration a variety of insight from expert analysts along with their own gut feelings to try and predict the perfect bracket. No fan has ever escaped the Round of 64 with a perfect bracket. Yet year in and year out, March Madness comes and fans give it another kick. Subsequently, we are all sucked right back into the greatness that is the NCAA Tournament.
Darrell Harris is a junior journalism major from Carson, Calif.