Understanding March Madness


March Madness is an annual college basketball tournament held every spring in the US. The basketball teams included form part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA Division I schools all over the country vying for the national championship. The event is designed as a single-elimination tournament with a total of 68 schools trying to become the NCAA National Champion.

March Madness History

March Madness as a basketball tournament started in 1939 when it was first organized by the NCAA. The format was the idea of Harold Olsen, the Ohio State University coach back then. But it started as a yearly celebration as it is known now since 1984. The NCAA credited Bob Walsh of the Seattle Organizing Committee as the one who started it. Aside from March Madness, it was also popularly known as the Big Dance.

March Madness Set-Up

March Madness is composed of the national champions from the 32 Division I conferences all over the US. There are also 36 other basketball teams being awarded a berth in the tournament each year. The berths are chosen by the NCAA selection committee, which has also become a nationally televised event in itself.

All the 68 teams are divided in to four regions and organized into single elimination brackets, which pre-determines the match-ups. The winner in each bracket moves on to the next round and paired with the other bracket winner in the region. This goes on for six more rounds, with the last round determines the National Champion.

The single elimination tournament gives lower-ranked teams a greater chance of snatching the national championship, since it only takes one game to eliminate an opponent from the tournament. While there can be underdog teams that can potentially reach the finals, they still have challenges to face at each round as the lower-ranked teams are usually paired up with the stronger and higher ranked basketball teams.

March Madness Games

Basketball games during March Madness starts with the First Four, games between the lowest conference champion teams in the brackets and the lowest at-large teams. Winners of these games assume their place in the next round, the Round of 64. In the next round, with the higher ranked teams facing their respective lower-ranked team opponents. The matching structure ensures that the teams with higher ranking are always matched with lower ranked teams. This will help motivate basketball teams to increase their ranking prior to the tournament to have a better chance of advancing into the next round.

After the second round, the regional quarterfinals are played immediately. After these matches, winners form part of the next round, the regional semifinals also called the Sweet Sixteen. This leads to the Elite Eight, or the regional finals. After the Elite Eight, winners form part of the Final Four. The two winners then move on to the National Finals, which will determine the National Champion.