March Madness: Have we seen the last of the Blue Bloods?


Logan Martinez, Contributor

Throughout college basketball history, it can be argued that the same 15 schools have dominated every other year. 

Whether it be the storied Blue Bloods or the big program universities, it is always the same group of colleges within the national championship each year. 

While there have always been Cinderella story-type runs, such as Loyola Chicago in 2018 or Saint Peter’s in 2022, they have always managed to get bounced by the experienced Michigan team or the physically imposing North Carolina. 

The 2022 to 2023 preseason seemed to be no different, as countless analysts picked powerhouses such as Gonzaga, Kentucky and North Carolina to reach the men’s Final Four. Although the AP rankings remained primarily steady heading into the men’s NCAA tournament, 2023 has proven to be the year of unimaginable upsets. 

Through an incredible month of madness, the sports world now looks ahead to a Final Four consisting of the likes of Miami, FAU, San Diego State and the storied UConn. With the 2023 tournament being the first in history not to feature a single No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight, a lot of casual fans are left asking themselves, “What happened this year?” 

Though some choose to believe that is just what happens in March, it can easily be seen that this year’s madness has come as a result of newly integrated NCAA NIL rulings.

With the NCAA allowing players to capitalize off of their name, image and likeness (NIL), collegiate athletes have essentially been given the opportunity to earn a living while playing their respective collegiate sports. 

Though it certainly benefits the players, countless lower-level universities have also benefited from the ruling as they can now afford to openly recruit players using various NIL deals. While the rulings have made the rich richer, it has also given smaller colleges the tools they need to recruit incoming freshmen as well as keep existing players. 

With the remaining universities within the Final Four, the case is no different. 

With offers of a LifeWallet NIL deal worth $800,000 to Kansas State transfer guard Nijel Pack and a $100,000 deal to returning junior Isaiah Wong, the Miami Hurricanes essentially turned their program around almost overnight. The same could easily be said for San Diego State’s program, as they currently have the star-studded senior Matt Bradley under a NIL deal worth up to $370,000 dollars. 

It is because of the addition of NIL rulings that small-name universities have been able to succeed at a much higher level than before. 

Though it does not level the playing field entirely, it does allow the window of opportunity to crack open just that much more. Soon, men’s college basketball could see many lower-level teams advancing in the tournament at a higher clip than ever before. 

While its essential purpose was to benefit the players, the addition of NIL deals within the NCAA has dramatically improved the ability of lower-level universities to compete. 

With this season’s March Madness ending, who is to say we will not see another Final Four with lower-seeded teams in next year’s tournament?