Basketball-March Madness more unpredictable that ever, Anthony says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 22, 2024 | 5:28 PM

By Rory Carroll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Nobody’s March Madness bracket is safe, as lesser known colleges and universities increasingly challenge the traditional powerhouses of the NCAA tournament, NBA great Carmelo Anthony told Reuters.

Anthony led Syracuse University to its first NCAA tournament championship in 2003 and the 10-time NBA All-Star said he welcomes the new era of parity.

“What’s different about it now is it is not just the traditional schools that are having success in March Madness,” said Anthony, who stars in an AT&T ad campaign poking fun at the boxy suits he and other players wore during the 2003 NBA draft.

“It’s less predictable now. When I was playing and over the years, the big name schools were always going to be there – Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, UConn.

“Now you don’t know who is going to be there. You have the Florida Atlantics of the world, the San Diego States of the world now. You just don’t know. It’s not the same as when you knew what teams were going to be in the Sweet 16.”

Upstart 13th seed Oakland University – which is based in Michigan, not California as casual fans may have assumed – put an exclamation point on Anthony’s comments on Thursday, when they stunned vaunted third seed Kentucky in the first round.

The more level playing field arises in part from NCAA rule changes. College athletes are now allowed to earn money from their name, image and likeness (NIL), which removes one incentive to turn professional as soon as possible. Also, it is easier than ever for players to transfer from one school to another.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the camaraderie among teammates, which is what Anthony said he remembers most about his title run with Syracuse.

“That time spent together, formulating the bond we had during that run, that was a special time,” said Anthony, who took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors.

“It’s still hard to put into words.”

The tournament concludes on April 8.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)