For college basketball fans around the country, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Schools are gearing up for the spectacle that is the NCAA Tournament, with hopes of making a deep run to cap off their season the right way.
Most players would look forward to traveling to their first or second-round destination, knowing that America would pause their lives and take off of work to watch them compete. Being able to execute with your best friends to accomplish a common goal was the ultimate reward.
However, that wholesome narrative surrounding March Madness may have changed, thanks to the introduction of name, image and likeness earning potential in the last couple of years. A productive stretch during the month of March and possibly the month of April could result in a sizeable payout.
The NCAA tournament has no shortage of potential with regard to the possible storylines that could evolve over the course of several weeks. Perhaps a school that no one has heard of before makes a Cinderella run to the Elite 8, such as St. Peter’s did a year ago. Maybe there’s a blue-blood program that completely dominates the competition en route to a national title.
There’s also the chance that something quirky may go viral, such as a dance by a player on the bench, or a fan whose passion becomes intimately linked with the basketball team - think Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago.
With the social media boom, there’s no shortage of mediums for something to garner attention. Organically waiting for CBS or Turner to lock their cameras in on something no longer needs to take place, since everyone in an arena can film memorable moments.
As the madness begins in earnest, keep an eye out for content that might have otherwise been overlooked back in the day. Players might try to go out of their way to share pre-game rituals or footage of them getting ready for a do-or-die contest.
There’s No “I” In Team, But There Is A “Me”
When the pressure ratchets up to its highest point, teams need to be able to rely on one another to get through adversity. It’s a staple of some of the most successful squads of March’s past and should continue to be a baseline requirement for any school that makes a deep run in the tournament.
However, the fact of the matter is, we live in a different time and place now with NIL. A player’s March Madness shelf life can literally last for one game. There is no guarantee that they will make it back to the Big Dance ever again, which makes this opportunity paramount from a competitive and compensation perspective.
It would be somewhat disappointing if players focused more on their own personal success than that of their teams, but it may not be surprising given the incentive they now have to introduce themselves to the world.