March Madness

Join InTheRough's Bracketology Pool by Maxwell Young

Another year.  Another tournament.  More Madness.

This year's 68-team NCAA Men's Basketball tournament is no more predictable than any of the previous tournaments.  In fact, the 2015-16 college basketball season has been on of upsets and unpredictability from Day 1.  Since the Associated Press launched its first Top 25 poll in 1948, no grouping of top-10 teams suffered more losses than this season with 74.  Moreover, top-5 teams were upset 21 times by unranked opponents, tying for the most ever.

So, how do you predict a tournament where a 3 v. 14 upset, like Stephen F. Austin over West Virginia, has the potential of wrecking your entire bracket?  Thanks to data acquired from the Department of Education, Business Insider filled out this year's tournament bracket based on the total revenues generated by each of the 68 basketball programs.  The average Division-1 men's basketball program brings in an average of $8 million per year, which makes teams like Oregon ($8.3M), Texas A&M ($8.1M), and Utah ($8.3M), who are highly ranked in the tournament, susceptible to upsets by programs generating more revenue.  All three of these teams according to the BI bracket, are ousted before the Elite Eight by basketball heavyweights Duke ($33.8M), Texas ($16.7M), and Gonzaga ($12.2M).  As you can see, the money in college basketball follows the blue blood programs who have histories of winning national titles, recruiting the best players, and having the best coaches, as Duke, Arizona, Syracuse, and Kentucky--the Final Four participants--combine to bring in $107 million annually.

With all of this money being thrown around in collegiate sports and collegiate athletes being viewed as amateurs, is it time to institute a pay-for-play compensation scale? Well, to stratify the data provided by the Department of Education, BI was also able to calculate the value of an individual player on these 13-man rosters of D-1 programs using the NBA's recent collective bargaining agreement, giving players a minimum of 49% of all revenue.  Based on the average revenue of a basketball program ($8M), the average D-1 basketball player is worth a whopping $296,723 per year.  This value becomes markedly higher when players attend the likes of Louisville, a team that has the highest annual revenue of $45.8M yielding a $1.7M per year value for each of their individual players.  Other notable programs with high individual player value include Indiana ($905,185), UNC ($782,927), Northwestern ($567,399) and Pitt ($562,623).

Objectors to the pay-for-performance concept in collegiate athletics often bring up the fact that athletes attend school for free and are provided the opportunity to play on the nation"s stage garnering media exposure and other perks of the trade.  Some argue that this current agreement should suffice.  When regular students are struggling to pay for a school's tuition expenses, the spoils of an athlete seem to be fair.  In reality, the rewards of of collegiate sports have become so lucrative for coaches and institutions that the athletes are wondering where their share of the pie is.

In 2011, USA Today tabulated the scholarship values of that year's Final Four teams' players (Butler, UCONN, Kentucky, and VCU).  The average among them was $38,119, which adjusted for inflation, is equal to approximately $40,182 in 2016.  This means the players at mid-major schools and even in the Power 6 conferences generate roughly seven times the amount of their granted scholarships.  Imagine playing for Louisville where a player's value of $1.7M could exceed an average scholarship by twenty-seven times and not reap any financial gain.  If I'm spending anywhere from 30 to 45 hours per week on athletics, time that's taken away from valuable class sessions, extracurricular involvement and educational learning by the university that, by the way, is also responsible for hanging my jersey in its bookstore windows, I'm not all that agreeable to what's currently given to me.  It sounds to me like I'd be an unpaid university employee.  The marginal cost of not being given a fair and equal education no longer equals the marginal benefit of the multi-millions of dollars that are slipped into the pockets of everyone except the athlete.

All things being equal, there is still time to fill out your brackets in whatever manner you see fit. Join in on InTheRough's own craziness and play in our pool on ESPN.  First round matches begin tomorrow at noon Eastern time. Who ya got?


2015 March Madness Breakdown by Maxwell Young

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is such a compelling sporting event in the United States because it showcases some of the most dramatic basketball games of the year.  No matter what the seed (unless you're a sixteen seed playing the one seed, good luck), any team can win on any given day.  The unpredictable nature of the tournament often creates intriguing storylines, such as the deep tournament runs of cinderella teams like George Mason, VCU, or Wichita St.  With the first round games starting today and the Round of 64 beginning on Thursday, this year's NCAA tournament figures to be no exception.

The main headline of the 2015 season has been the stellar coaching and play by the currently undefeated and number one overall seed, Kentucky Wildcats.  John Calipari, a major proponent of the one-and-done trend that has dominated recruiting over recent years, has formed a team that leans on the talent of prospective NBA draft lottery picks.  The veteran leadership and experience of forward Willie Cauley-Stein and twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison is a major bonus, especially when faced with the many foreign challenges that come with tournament play.  To be honest, at 34-0 it is Kentucky's tournament to lose, but here's a rundown of some of its challengers.


Other than the Wildcats, there are a number of elite teams that can contend for a national championship.  College basketball's blue bloods such as Duke, University of North Carolina, Arizona, and Kansas as well as Wisconsin, Villanova, Virginia and Gonzaga all have realistic chances at challenging Kentucky. 

(1) Duke: With one of the most hallowed programs and coaches in college hoops, the Blue Devils are practically always capable of deep tournament runs.  In addition to having the best offensive freshmen in the country in Jahlil Okafor, Duke is battle-tested, exhibiting impressive road wins against UNC, Wisconsin, Louisvlle and UVA.  If that isn't enough evidence, guards Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook alleviate some of the offensive pressure with tremendous penetration and shooting.

(1) Wisconsin: An odd but obsessed basketball team had their hearts broken in last year's March Madness when they were defeated by the all-freshman Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four.  Ever since, Wisconsin, led by senior Frank Kaminsky, has been determined to get back to the the big dance and compete for a national championship.  The badgers turn the ball over less than any other team in the NCAA.  The loss of senior point guard, Traevon Jackson is certainly a downside for the Badger's push in March, however, his injury did not seem to be a factor during the regular season as Wisconsin only lost one game to a talented Maryland team.

(2) Arizona: Defense wins championships.  Allowing the fewest second-chance points in the NCAA, Sean Miller's Wildcat team is just as talented defensively as they are offensively.  Arizona is in a tricky West region where potential upsets loom on the horizon, but if they can make it to the Final Four to play Kentucky, I see no better team to attempt to knock-off the undefeated.  Their impenetrable defense along with budding Duquesne University transfer T.J. McConnell running the point and athletic forwards would certainly cause problems for any team.

Mid-Seed Madness

Over the past several years, there have been teams from outside the top four seeds to perform well into March; after all, last year's national championship game featured the seven seed, and eventual champions, Connecticut Huskies against the eight seed Kentucky Wildcats.  These are the few teams that could find themselves dancing on the final weekend. 

(5) West Virginia: Led by coach Bob Huggins, the West Virginia Mountaineers will provide headaches for any opposing team because they press for the entire game.  The defensive change-up shook ball-handlers loose on 28.2% of their possessions.  As a five seed, the Mountaineers start the tournament against a tough Buffalo team that finds itself in the tournament for the first time ever, but a win could set them for a head-on collision with the number one overall seed in the Sweet 16.

(6) Southern Methodist University:  SMU is probably most known throughout the world of sports for the death penalty they received in football in 1987, the same year their current basketball coach, Larry Brown, won an NCAA title.  SMU has the only coach to ever win an NBA and NCAA title, a top 25 rank in assists per game and field goal percentage, and their first American Conference title in a convincing win over defending national champion, UCONN Huskies.  In other words, they are dangerous.

(10) Ohio State: Entering the tournament as a ten seed, the Buckeyes had a sub-par season.  However, they remain a threat in the West region because of one player, D'Angelo Russell.  With a style of play that is NBA-ready, Russell has an innate feel for the game that will be rivaled by few during tournament play.  The problem for this Ohio St. team has been their lack of consistency, but a win against a VCU team hindered by injury could certainly give OSU the jump they need to make a deep run.  Russell is the truth, check out his highlight tape here


Last year, seven double-digit seeded teams advanced to the Round of 32, and of those seven, three teams moved on to the Sweet 16.  You can never be so sure of any one match-up because of the threat these following teams pose. 

(12) Stephen F. Austin: In the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the Lumberjacks knocked off Shaka Smart's VCU team.  Finding themselves with the same seed as last year, this current team is arguably better.  The Texas team has lost one game since November 24th, has the most assists per game in the nation, the fifth ranked field goal percentage in the nation, and the ninth most points per game among D-1 teams.  Whether the Lumberjacks can make it past Utah and standout point-guard, Delon Wright, remains to be seen, but be wary of how you choose this game. 

(14) Georgia St.: NBA prospect R.J. Hunter, former Kentucky starter Ryan Harrow, and comeback kid Kevin Ware make up the veteran trio of starting guards for a Panthers team that dominated the Sun Belt Conference this year.   Their first round matchup against three seed Baylor is a potential upset because of the Bear's inability to get to the free throw line as well as their poor field goal percentage, ranked 189th nationally.  If Baylor gets off to a slow start this game could have an interesting finish. 

Part of the enjoyment of March Madness is the prospect of picking every game in the tournament correctly.  With the  plethora of intricately, and sometimes carelessly, filled out brackets in mind, InTheRough has created its own March Madness bracket group through ESPN's Tournament Challenge.  Compete with InTheRough staff and basketball fans alike by joining the group here!  Brackets can be filled out until the tournament's tip-off Thursday night. 





adidas Unveils "Made in March" Kits for 2015 NCAA Tournament by Maxwell Young

The closing of February means only one thing, March Madness.  adidas has jump started the month-long celebration with the release of their Made in March uniform and footwear collection.  Featuring new colorways of the D Lillard 1, J Wall 1, and D Rose 5 Boost signature shoes as well as advanced apparel technology, the kits will be worn by eight teams during the big dance.  The shorts, which draw from the respective teams' retro uniforms, exhibit an enlarged team logo and asymmetrical trim while the jerseys are largely identical in design and simplicity.  It'll be interesting to see how deep teams such as Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, NC State, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Wisconsin go in this year's tournament, perhaps adidas can notch another championship title under their belt.  Keep an eye out for these uniforms as the tournament begins to unfold, and if you're a die-hard fan, you can pick up this apparel starting March 6 at adidas.