The 2017 NCAA championship game has all the earmarks of a classic heavyweight battle.
The North Carolina Tar Heels will face the Gonzaga Bulldogs for all the marbles on Monday night (5:20am Tuesday). Both teams are number one seeds and have enough star power to reach the mountain-top of college basketball.
The contrast lies in what both programs wish to achieve. The Tar Heels have a rich history of winning in the tournament with five titles and 20 appearances in the Final Four, while this will be Gonzaga’s first appearance in the final and they are looking to win their first national title.
Now you might be saying to yourself: why is the NCAA tournament so popular in the United States? Well, the simple answer is the parody.
March Madness has proven to be a month of wildly unexpected results, with underdogs beating favorites, stars showcasing their talents and faces you will eventually see in the NBA.
The tournament brackets have become a yearly ritual for anyone that is interested in college basketball, from the president of the United States to the postman, everyone has a chance to fill out their brackets to decide which teams reach the Final Four.
All the tournament games are sudden death, there are no drawn-out series like the NBA. If you win you advance to the next round if you lose you are out. This keeps the viewers and fans engaged with their teams and favorite players.
The NCAA fandom consists mostly of college students, known for their rowdy nature during and after games – the games become an event to students and parents of the players alike. The games are nationally televised which also gives players the incentive to perform at a high level.
National rivalries also drive the fanatic following of the programs, the most famous rivalry in the NCAA is between Duke University and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both programs combined to win 9 NCAA titles and have sent 137 players to the NBA.
Most famous of them is Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest basketball player in NBA history. Jordan won a NCAA title with the Tar Heels in 1982, when he a hit the game-winning jumper to beat the Georgetown Hoyas.
Not only does college basketball cultivate great talent within their programs, fans come out in record numbers to watch these games. The NCAA title game is the event fans want to witness live, nearly 80,000 fans attended the 2014 title game at the AT&T center in Dallas.
On a more serious note, universities and colleges have been criticized over the years for not paying college players. The amount of revenue the programs make is massive, nearing a billion dollars in some cases from TV rights and investments.
The Universities brass offer the rebuttal that the players are given scholarships and that monetary compensation would corrupt the programs. However, the only reason these institutes of higher learning are able to create revenue is off the likeness and product that the players produce on the court.
This could change in the future, but it is highly unlikely. These programs are the conduit to success for most of these players, they offer the platform and have all the leverage.
All in all, the NCAA is part of sports culture in the United States; the fans, players, and coaches all come together to represent the team on the front of the jersey with one goal in mind, contending and winning a national title.
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