It should be noted, this article is not about Mardi Gras, baseball spring training or Julius Caesar’s demise. It is about college basketball, and perhaps the most thrilling month of the year sports wise. Why? Because, in the words of the immortal college basketball analyst, Dick Vitale, “It’s crazy, baby!!”
But what is March Madness?
Wikipedia provides several definitions for the term.
March Madness, n.
1. NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship
2. NCAA Men’s basketball video game series (EA Games)
3. Illinois High School Boys’ Basketball Championship
For the sake of this article, we will be focusing on the first definition. March Madness is a month-long college basketball tournament that features 68 of the nation’s best teams in Division I athletics. It begins in mid-March and ends in early April, with the crowning of the national champion.
But why does it matter?
Because ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! The tournament is single elimination, and pits teams of all calibres up against each other. You may have one of the nation’s best squads, such as Duke, fall to a complete nobody of a school--like IUUPI or George Mason. This is called an “upset.” The tournament is infamous for this; and when you have 32 teams playing in one day, who knows what will come of it.
That brings us to the next area of interest:
You may hear people talk about filling out their bracket for the tournament. What does this mean? Bracket competitions have to do with which team plays which team through 6 rounds of the tournament.First of all, teams are seeded, which means that the NCAA looks at their record for the regular season and not only decides whether or not they deserve a bid, or an invitation to play, but how they will be ranked. Teams are given a ranking between 1-16; 1 being the best and 16 being the worst. They are then assigned to a region (East, South, Midwest or West) and matched up with their opponent. The 1 seed plays the 16 seed; the 2 plays the 15; the 3 plays the 14; so on and so forth.
The winners of the first round games go on to meet each other in the second round. Then the winners of the second round go on to play, etc., until two teams remain and play for the championship.
The goal of filling out the bracket is to guess the winner of each game in each round, all the way through to the end. You are given a certain amount of points for each pick and the person with the most points at the end wins.
In places of gathering, such as workplaces, Usually pools include a buy-in, too, so there’s a nice cash-prize if you are the skilled (lucky) person who wins. ESPN.com offers a great way to fill out brackets. Just become a member and they’ll show you the way. Or just settle for the old school way of doing it: print out a bracket and write in the answers for yourself.
The Language of March Madness
The Big Dance, n. Another term for the actual tournament. You may also hear it referred to as “the dance.”
Cinderella, n. Refers to a no-name team, or team that is a higher seed (say 9 or above), that has beaten one or more teams better than they are. This term is tied with the theme of the big dance. “Cinderella has shown up to the ball.”
The Sweet Sixteen, n. The third round of the tournament, when only 16 teams remain.
The Elite Eight, n. The fourth round of the tournament, when only 8 teams remain.
The Final Four, n. The fifth round of the tournament, when only 4 teams remain.
Interesting Facts About The Big Dance
- A 1-seed has never lost to a 16-seed in the 25+ years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
- There are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 (147.57 quintillion) possibilities in selecting possible winners when filling out a 68 team NCAA bracket, making the odds of randomly picking a perfect bracket (without weighting for seed number) 9.2 quintillion to 1. So don’t feel bad if you don’t guess everything right. You have a better chance of winning the lottery while going down in a plane crash after being struck by lightning four times. But remember, someone wins!
- UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) is the most decorated school in college basketball history, winning the tournament 11 times. Kentucky follows them with 7 championships. North Carolina and Indiana are tied for third most with 5 national titles apiece.
- Lowest seeded teams to reach the Final Four: #11 LSU (1986) and #11 George Mason (2006)
- Lowest seeded team to win the championship: #8 Villanova (1985)