Does the NCAA men’s basketball really have more ‘madness’ than the women’s tournament?

Zach Miller
Run It Back With Zach
2 min readMar 18, 2022

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South Dakota upset Ole Miss in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Last week, distinguished Twitter troll Darren Rovell — who has impressively built a following of over 2 million by driving engagement from provocative tweets —took issue with Buick’s campaign that celebrates “unseen” moments in women’s sports.

He specifically took issue with the ad focused on women’s basketball, saying that the men’s basketball tournament is more popular than the women’s basketball tournament because the men’s tournament has more “madness.”

Putting aside the fact that he completely missed the point of the ad, which is that the NCAA has woefully undervalued its own athletes in many sports besides men’s basketball (particularly women’s sports), is that even true?

This year, it certainly was not true.

If you look at the 32 first-round games in each tournament — when the “madness” happens — you’ll see that the number of upsets and the average victory margin look almost identical.

Differences in tournament formats

Before we get to the numbers, make sure to note one significant difference between the two tournaments.

In the women’s tournament, the teams seeded 1–4 in each region host the first two rounds of the tournament. But in the men’s tournament, every game is played at a neutral site.

This means we can look at apples-to-apples comparisons between the two tournaments as it relates to 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9 matchups.

However, we get apples-to-oranges comparisons when looking at 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14 and 4 vs. 13 games because the top-seeded women’s teams benefit from home-court advantage while the top-seeded men’s teams do not.

Upsets

Seven double-digit seeds won first-round games in the men’s tournament, while six double-digit seeds won in the women’s tournament.

The difference was the St. Peter’s men’s epic upset of Kentucky on Thursday night, the only upset of either tournament by a team seeded higher than 12 (the Peacocks are a 15 seed).

The number of upsets by teams seeded 10th, 11th or 12th was dead even at six apiece.

Average victory margin

Upsets aren’t the only way to measure “madness.” We can also look at how close the games were in each tournament.

When we go apples-to-apples and look at all games involving teams seeded 5–12, the average victory margins in each tournament were almost identical. The women’s tournament actually edged out the men’s tournament, 11.38 points to 11.69 points.

When we go apples-to-oranges and look at games involving teams seeded 1–4 vs. teams seeded 13–16, the men’s tournament (unsurprisingly) saw a lower average victory margin, 17.31 points to 27.44 points.

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Zach Miller
Run It Back With Zach