If you’ve been looking for, or are actively seeking, ways to lessen the importance of men’s March Madness, the past few weeks were a veritable shopping spree. You could throw any number of items in the cart while you sprint through the aisles — Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese overshadowing the title game, zero No. 1 seeds making the Elite 8 for the first time ever, FAU and San Diego State comprising half the Final Four, and on and on. However, the most glaring was the title game between UConn and SDSU taking a backseat to a singular highlight from Victor Wembanyama.
Even for the internet, that’s pretty impressive and would absolutely make the rounds on NBA Twitter on any given night. Wembanyama is one of the most tantalizing prospects in the history of sports, not just basketball.
Here’s another view in case you thought the first clip of a 7-and-a-half foot center dribbling between his legs, behind his back before taking a stepback 3, and put-back dunking his own miss was deep faked.
The way he enters the frame for the dunk in that slo-mo clip looks like he came out of nowhere, and that’s probably how the NCAA felt when it saw hoops fans spending a large portion of a very uncompetitive men’s final looking to see if any player had previously pulled off Wembanyama’s feat.
It’s happened before, and it happened during March Madness
Turns out, someone has pulled off the missed-three-follow-slam, and it was former Illinois guard Roger Powell during a Final Four game against Louisville in 2005 of all things.
That’s fantastic for whoever is gleefully celebrating the gradual demise of college basketball. Think about it. One of the most unique plays we’ve ever seen occurred naturally during a tournament game almost 20 years ago, and now if you want to see that level of basketball, you have to find the stream of the LNB Pro A league.
Now, I know that Big Vic wouldn’t have played college basketball five, 10, 15 years ago or ever. The point I’m trying to illustrate is that in order for the NCAA tourney to resonate the way its organizers and fans would like, they’re going to need to find a different marketing strategy — or provide cash incentives to lure the best players from following a different path.
The NCAA can’t simply roll out the field of 68 and watch the masses flock to it. Prospects know college basketball isn’t the only route to the Association, and I’m dubious of die-hard college hoops fans’ interest in courting that type of talent.
The one-and-done rule has been blamed for the erosion of March Madness, and a lot of the vitriol, wrongfully, has been dropped at the feet of the players. It’s the NBA’s rule, which likely isn’t helping matters either.
This is my thing though: Do the people who truly love the tournament want it brought into this century? It’s a fair question because the only way March Madness regains the importance it had to the sports landscape is by a complete overhaul.
So there are two choices. The first is to embrace/push for a remodel and hope the NCAA can fix it based on good faith. (Yeah, I wouldn’t hold my breath.) The second is to accept that this is what the tournament has become and to enjoy it for what it is.