Embracing the madness

As March Madness comes to a close, WSS recalls the excitement and culture around this year’s tournament.
The annual NCAA March Madness Tournament is a source for community and lots of competition. This years tournament was one for the record books.
The annual NCAA March Madness Tournament is a source for community and lots of competition. This year’s tournament was one for the record books.
Ashlyn Brady
The 2024 NCAA March Madness Tournament

Unbelievable upsets, nail-biting finishes and busted brackets: the 2024 NCAA March Madness tournament has brought it all. Since the 68 included teams were announced on Selection Sunday on March 17, the nation has been carefully considering their brackets and watching as stars from both the men’s and women’s NCAA college basketball teams fight their way to becoming champions.  

Many students rush to make brackets for March Madness in hopes of getting the most points throughout their friend groups, families or even classes. Some students make just one, and some decide to make more.
“I ended up winning 2 of the pools I was in for the womens tournament. My family also printed off the unfilled brackets and I taped them to the wall at home and in the lights booth [Arganbright Auditorium] and filled it in as the tournament progressed, which was really fun.” Lexi Vogt ’24 said.

In March, anything is possible, from buzzer beaters to court storming to teams no one has heard of beating the giants of the game. There is something for everyone and every team during March. 

A surprising run

This year alone, there were upsets in both the women’s and men’s brackets. On the men’s side, James Madison took down fifth-seeded and dominant Big Ten team Wisconsin, and fourth-seed Auburn lost to Ivy League standout and twelfth-seeded Yale, causing a much-anticipated internet freakout that so many look forward to every year. Eleventh-seeded North Carolina State dominated fourth-seeded Duke to make it to their first Final Four since 1983. Alongside NC State, the fourth-seeded Alabama made it to their first Final Four in program history.   

Despite the upsets, two number-one-seeded teams, Purdue and UConn, battled for the national championship on Monday night. In a 75-60 win, UConn cemented their spot as the first Division I program to win back-to-back national championships since 2007.

Although the deep-seeded NC State came up short against championship runner-up Purdue, one player, DJ Burns, made waves on social media not only for his play on the court but also for his handling of playing in the Final Four as an eleventh seed. 

He caught the internet’s eye for his press conference and interview demeanor, even making light-hearted jokes on the court about Purdue powerhouse Zach Edey, who is 7 feet 4 inches tall, commenting directly to the former Naismith college player of the year about his height. 

Burns has drawn headlines like “Who needs a ripped basketball hero when we have DJ Burns?” from The Guardian and “NC State star DJ Burns could become an NFL star” from The Queen City Times. Burns is a prime example of how a single tournament or even a single game can change the lives of a previously under-the-radar college athlete through the power of social media and the sentiment of “anything can happen in March.”

UConn ended up dominating Purdue in the Championship, a storybook ending to the tournament as the Huskies picked up their sixth national title.

Success close to home

On the women’s side, Middle Tennessee, an eleventh seed, upset Louisville, a sixth seed, causing panic. Things ramped up in the second round as Duke, Colorado and Baylor all defeated higher-seeded opponents to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Third-seeded North Carolina State upset the top-seeded Texas to advance to the Final Four. 

Down the road from West High, two sold-out crowds have propelled the Iowa women’s team to a national championship game, including after a hard-fought, hyped-up rematch of last year’s championship game against Louisiana State University (LSU).

Iowa took on undefeated South Carolina in the national championship game for a chance to win their first national championship in program history but ultimately came up short in an 87-75 loss. South Carolina’s win marked their third title in program history and their spot as the fifth Division I program to finish their season undefeated. Although the tournament was held in Cleveland, Ohio, Carver-Hawkeye Arena was packed full of Hawkeye fans on Friday for the UConn game and Sunday night for the final game.

Many students at West have felt particularly invested in the tournament this year because of the spotlight on the Iowa Women’s team.

“Iowa Women’s basketball has given me the opportunity to really feel connected to a sports team for the first time. I’ve grown up as a fan of various sports teams because my parents are fans of them, but this is the first time I’ve actually felt like I’ve been a fan of a team on my own. for the first time, i’m going back and watching highlights of their games, which is something I never saw the appeal of until now.” Vogt said.

Record breaking and star-studded

Just as the tournament saw unbelievable upsets, it has also seen an unbelievable increase in viewership as more and more people begin to embrace the madness. The men’s championship game between Purdue and UConn averaged around 14.8 million viewers, which was the result of a slight increase from last year’s roughly 14.7 million viewers. The viewership of the women’s championship game between Iowa and South Carolina nearly doubled last year’s number with an average of 18.7 million viewers, shattering the viewership records the Iowa team has been setting earlier this year. Overall viewership averaged around 9.4 million viewers among several channels, resulting in a 4% increase from last year’s numbers. 


As viewership increases, so does the number of celebrities who have joined in on the fun. Apart from obvious WNBA legends like Kelsey Plum and Breanna Stewart, who were spotted at the Jan. 5 game, Iowa Women’s basketball fan and actor Jason Sudeikis also made his way to Cleveland to join in on the action as well as Kylie Kelce, wife of retired Eagles center and NFL legend Jason Kelce. 


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A post shared by NCAA March Madness (@marchmadnesswbb)

The Barstool Sports owner also made waves in the X, formerly Twitter, world for his picks this March. He made his way to Cleveland to watch the Iowa and Connecticut matchup and then got on a plane to Arizona for the Men’s final four matchups between Alabama and Connecticut.


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