Two top-seeded teams will begin their title defense this week when the NCAA basketball tournaments tip off. Houston, Purdue, Alabama—which earned its first-ever No. 1 overall seed—and reigning champion Kansas were announced as the four No. 1 seeds in this year’s men’s tournament on Sunday night. On the women’s side, 2022 champ South Carolina, which earned its second consecutive top overall seed, was joined by Stanford, Indiana and Virginia Tech in the top slots.
While all eight teams were top contenders on the court, their financial backings vary significantly, especially on the women’s side. The average budget among the 68 participants in the men’s and women’s tournaments stands at $8.89 million and $4.02 million, respectively, according to EADA data. All but one of the top-seeded teams in both brackets spend above those averages, with Purdue on the men’s side and Virginia Tech on the women’s registering slightly below.
Bill Self’s Jayhawks are the clear outlier among the men’s top seeds. Kansas’ $15.5 million budget sits far above its fellow No. 1s, while Alabama’s $10.9 million, Houston’s $9.8 million and Purdue’s $8.8 million budgets are more comparable to one another.
But the budgets of programs such as Duke, UConn and Kentucky dwarf all four top contenders on the men’s side. The Blue Devils’ first-round matchup against No. 12 Oral Roberts marks the biggest financial mismatch in the bracket. Duke’s $28 million in expenses is more than 12.5x the Golden Eagles ($2.2 million).
(To include the private institutions playing in both tournaments, the figures in the charts below have been pulled from EADA data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education annually.)
Money isn’t everything in March Madness, though. Despite the mega-millions in their coffers, the Blue Devils still stand on the wrong end of the biggest March Madness financial upset on record. In 2012, 15th-seeded Lehigh stunned No. 2 Duke in the tournament’s first round despite the Durham-based blue blood having 11.5x the budget. No. 15 Oral Roberts similarly upset No. 2 Ohio State in 2021 with five times less in funding than the Buckeyes.
South Carolina tops the chart on the women’s side. Led by forward Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks have dominated all season. The 32-0 squad recorded the school’s first undefeated regular season in history and added a seventh SEC tournament title to its tally last week. Their success on the court has translated into financial support off of it: South Carolina’s $9.54 million budget is the largest among both the top-seeded contenders in the women’s tournament and the entire field of 68.
South Carolina also holds the mantle for the biggest financial mismatch on the women’s side. The Gamecocks’ first-round matchup is against No. 16 Norfolk State, which operates on a budget of just $1.3 million.
According to EADA data, Dawn Staley’s team is the only women’s basketball program to break the $9 million barrier. The No. 2 spender, Geno Auriemma’s second-seeded UConn Huskies, rang in at $8.5 million during the most recent fiscal year. No. 3 seed LSU ($8.3 million) and No. 4 Texas ($8.1 million) trail closely behind.
Among the three other No. 1 seeds, Stanford is the only one to fall within the threshold of the sport’s most well-funded programs with a budget of $8 million. Indiana’s expenses sit at $5.2 million and Virginia Tech’s at just $3.4 million—amounting to just 35% of South Carolina’s spend.
Following the first four play-in games, the first round of the men’s tournament tips off Thursday and the women’s begins Friday.