Potential No. 1 NBA draft pick Chet Holmgren and Gonzaga are the favorite to win the title, and some argue that the Bulldogs are the next blue blood team in college basketball. But they’re still trailing in spending compared to the most prestigious programs in the NCAA tournament this year.
Among the tournament’s top seeds, Gonzaga spends about $9.8 million annually, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. That ranks 34th in Division I—considerably less than No. 2 seed Kentucky, which spends $18.3 million—but in the neighborhood of the other first seeds: Big-12 champion Kansas ($10.9 million), Pac-12 champion Arizona ($10.3 million) and Baylor ($9.7 million).
The other No. 2 seeds show similar variability with Auburn ($11.7 million) and Villanova ($13 million) joined by Duke ($19.9 million).
The eight-figure budgets from top programs dwarf the spending by this year’s potential No. 16 seeds. Bryant University, which won its first Northeast Conference Championship last week, spends about $1.6 million annually. The Bulldogs, who finished 3-28 in 2018, will face Arizona in their first March Madness appearance if they defeat Wright State on Wednesday. Wright State spends about $3.2 million, while No. 16 Georgia State, set to face Gonzaga, spends $2.6 million.
Southwestern Athletic Conference champ Texas Southern spends comparably at $1.6 million and will face Kansas if it defeats Texas A&M (Corpus Christi) on Tuesday.
No. 14 seed Montana State, which is spending about $1.6 million annually, plays third-seeded Texas Tech ($11.5 million) in the opening round. Jacksonville State, a 15 seed, spends the second least in this year’s field ($1.5 million, ahead of only Yale) and has an uphill battle ahead against Auburn, one of the biggest spenders in the SEC.
Underdog teams populated with unlikely heroes that dethrone programs with more financial firepower tradition bring the madness to March. It's those very disadvantages that make the games and the upsets so compelling.
Sportico will be publishing short business highlights throughout the three-week NCAA tournament.