If you are someone that follows American sports then you have probably heard of the phrase ‘March Madness’ but how much do you actually know about it?
It’s a great event where fans can bet on March Madness, play fantasy sports, enjoy a whole month of games and witness the best upcoming basketball stars that might come to NBA soon.
So, here we’re aiming to answer the question ‘What is March Madness?’.
So, What is March Madness?
As we’ve already touched on, March Madness is something most of us have heard of but very few actually understand what it is all about. In a nutshell, March Madness is a college basketball tournament that occurs once per year in – you’ve guessed it March.
The structure of the tournament pulls together the best 68 college basketball teams from around the United States and pits them against one another until we are left with the winner. In order to collect the honor of being named National Champions, a team has to make it through six rounds of the competition.
What are the six rounds?
We’ve just touched on the fact that March Madness is a competition that is played out over six rounds. Well, now we’re going to cover off the structure and official naming of those rounds. The first two rounds are pretty standard. Your opening round is simply known as the ‘Round of 64’ were the winners of that move into a ‘Round of 32’ tie.
Now, this is where the organizers have tried to break away from standard round names. The last 16 is dubbed the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ before moving into the Elite Eight. The semi-final stage is known as ‘The Final Four’ with the grand finale being ‘The Championship Game’.
The history of March Madness
March Madness wasn’t really a thing until 1939, which is pushing a century ago at this point. Officially, the National Association of Basketball Coaches were the people who really got the ball rolling for March Madness, however, there is a strong view out there that former Ohio State Basketball head coach Harold Olsen was the real leader of the tournament’s creation
As you would perhaps imagine, the tournament has evolved a lot since back in 1939. The inaugural tournament had just eight teams battle it out with Oregon taking on Ohio State in the Finals. Oregon emerged from that as the first-ever March Madness winner. That eight-team format remained in place through to 1951 when it then doubled to 16.
Fast forward another 20 years or so and again the competition participants increased by 100% to 32 teams. A decade on it doubled for the third time to 64 with the latest increase – of four teams – came in 2011 with the women’s game following suit this year.
Never say never, but the format does look settled on the magic number of 68 teams for the foreseeable future.
Why is it so popular?
The main reason it is so popular is that people love seeing the best college teams – and subsequently the best athletes – competing against each other. That’s an exciting angle in itself as it gives an insight on those who might be stepping up to the NBA in the coming drafts.
On top of that, one of the other big attractions to March Madness is the presence of ‘brackets’. Brackets are essentially a predictor game where punters make predictions on how the tournament will unfold and those who submit the most accurate brackets can bank some handsome winnings. There are countless sites that offer March Madness brackets and a lot of viewers opt to partake in order to add excitement to the action.
How are the teams selected?
Right, now we understand what March Madness is and why there is such a buzz around it, let’s take a deeper look into how these college teams get selected to play in the tournament as well as how they get seeded. There are 32 Division One conferences around the country; these are pooled together based on their location. All 32 conference winners instantly get themselves selected to participate in the March Madness tournament. They will be seeded based on the record they’ve posted in the campaign just played.
As for the remaining 36 teams, they get placed into the tournament by looking at some other factors. For one thing, there isn’t a cap on how many schools can be represented in the tournament for a specific conference; this means that, in theory, every team from one particular league could end up participating in the tournament. Of course, it would mean they would all have needed to play well enough, which makes it an unlikely occurrence.
First of all, the tournament organizers looks at the teams ‘Ratings Percentage Index’ along with their strength of schedule. After that, they take a look at their losses against teams outside of the top 100 in the Ratings Percentage Index. Those factors combined lock down the 68 teams. Then it’s simply a case of the best team wins.