The best time of the year has arrived, at least for college basketball fans. Spring break arrives, St. Patty’s Day, and March Madness begins…all in the same week!
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness, is a single elimination tournament comprised of 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the National Championship. The first edition of the tournament was held in 1939 and only had eight teams competing where Oregon won the first National title when they beat Ohio State 46 – 33. Since then, the tournament has grown and in 1985, it had 64 teams and then finally in 2011, there are 68 teams in the tournament.
Where did the name March Madness come from? The first person to use the term “March Madness was a high school official from Illinois in 1939, but it did not stick. The term finally stuck in 1982 when CBS Broadcaster Brent Musburger used it while covering the tournament.
How can teams make it into the tournament? There are two ways to make it in. There are 353 Division I teams that fall into 32 conferences that each hold a post season tournament. The teams that win their post season tournament have an automatic way into March Madness. That only makes up 32 of the 68 teams in the tournament though, so where do they get the other 36 teams? There is a NCAA selection committee that meets towards the end of the regular season to start taking into consideration all of the teams that could make it into the tournament. There is no set criteria for making it into the tournament as the committee looks at many different team statistics before making their selections.
The teams are all ranked 1 – 68 before getting divided into four regions, West, East, South and Midwest where they are then ranked 1-16, which is their seed. The top team in that region will play the bottom team in the region. The next highest will play the next lowest and so on. The better teams are rewarded with a better seed as they get to play the “worse” teams in the first round. Upsets can still happen though and when a much lower seed knocks out a higher seed, they are referred to as Cinderella teams. Finally, on “Selection Sunday”, the teams that made it into the tournament and their first-round games are announced live on TV.
There are eight teams, two from each region, that compete in four different games known as the “First Four” before the first round of the tournament begins to get a spot on the bracket. After those games take place on the Monday and Tuesday after Selection Sunday, the first round begins on Thursday and Friday, and all 64 teams play in 32 different games. Then, the teams will play in Round 2, the Sweet 16, the Elite 8, the Final 4 and finally the National Championship over the following three weeks.
Fans can watch every game live on nearly any device with March Madness Live. Games can be viewed on TBS, TNT, truTV and CBS. To participate in all of this madness, millions of fans fill out their own bracket each year to compete with their friends, but no one has ever made a perfect bracket in the history of March Madness.