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The NBA and college basketball are inextricably linked, with the latter essentially serving as a minor league system for the former. And as the young players who feature in March Madness prepare to take part in another tournament, the NBA will certainly have its eyes on those games as collegiate stars make their cases for entry into the pros. So just how has March Madness had an influence on the NBA to date, and how will it impact on the major leagues going forward?
One of the hardest things for NBA teams to do is scout players. Between the over-300 college basketball programs in the United States, and the countless international clubs out there, there are only so many people involved with each NBA team that can be in a place at once. But the NCAA Tournament helps teams by consolidating some of the talent that is out there into a limited number of venues that can make it easier for teams to scout potential additions to their squads in person.
This is especially helpful during the Final Four, when a quartet of the best teams at college qualify for the last two rounds of the tournament. Those games are all played in one venue, which makes the scouting process so much easier for NBA talent evaluators. Without the NCAA Tournament, it would be much more difficult to get all of those stars into the same building, especially with many of those programs being in different parts of the country.
NBA Draft Decisions
For better or worse, the NCAA Tournament does have an impact on the selections that NBA teams make in the Draft. Some of this is with merit, as a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament by a player that was already at the top of a team's draft board could influence them to pull the trigger on that decision once and for all. But thanks to the hype surrounding March Madness, there are also plenty of decisions that go awry based on the tournament as well.
Many times, these decisions that are influenced by tournament performances work out well. Steph Curry is a prime example, as the Warriors took him top-ten in his draft class after he helped Davidson get to the Elite Eight. Now the Warriors have a dynasty, and maybe the best shooter of all-time. And while there are also times where this does not work out for teams, the tournament has undeniably influenced draft selections throughout league history.
Possible Playoff Changes
If there is one thing that the NCAA Tournament has taught us, it is that basketball is just a little more enjoyable with a side of suspense. The single elimination format of March Madness makes every game feel like the most important matchup in the world, which is why the tournament has influenced the NBA to think about its playoff format.
The NBA Playoffs have lacked suspense in recent years, with teams like the Warriors and whichever team LeBron James is on often getting to and winning the Finals. And while the NBA hasn’t entertained the thought of making its postseason a single elimination tournament, it has thought about changing the way teams are seeded to put better teams into the playoffs.
One such idea has been to put the teams with the 16 best records into the playoffs, regardless of conference. This would make sure the 16 best teams played for the title, rather than the eight best from each conference. Because if there is one thing that the NCAA Tournament has shown us, it is that putting the best teams into high-pressure situations makes for the most entertaining possible product.