March Madness Explained

What is March Madness? The NCAA holds its final men’s Division I basketball tournament in March each year. This tournament crowns the champion of Division I men’s basketball. The name “March Madness” properly describes this thrilling endeavor. Because of the single-elimination format, every game becomes a must-win, no matter the seed. Throughout the years, this tournament has seen absolute glory and complete misery, and that is the beauty of March Madness. Even if your teams did not make the tournament, you will surely find yourself on the edge of your seat, each and every game.

The tournament format creates incredible games with end-to-end suspense. This has propelled the tournament into an annual classic within American sports. Millions of people participate in the bracket challenge each year. Each team that gets a berth in the tournament has the chance to get the upset. Here is an explanation of March Madness and all its glory.

March Madness Breakdown

March Madness is held over three weeks starting March 18th with the First Four and culminating with the National Championship game on April 5th. The winner of the championship is crowned the champion of men’s Division I college basketball. See a breakdown of how the tournament works below:

68 Teams: The selection show, on March 14th, decides the 68-team roster for the tournament. The 68 teams are seeded 1 through 16 based on their season success.

Automatic Bids: The team that wins their conference gets an automatic bid into the tournament. Automatic bids account for 32 of the 68 teams selected. Because smaller conferences get an automatic bid, Cinderella stories are possible every tournament.

At Large Berths: The remaining 36 teams are given “at large” berths to participate in the tournament. The NCAA selection committee has a series of criteria when determining at-large berths.

Seeding: The 68 teams are seeded 1 through 16 with 1 playing 16, 2 playing 15, etc. The biggest upset in tournament history happened in 2018 when 16 seed UMBC upset 1 seed Virginia. Virginia would bounce back and win the tournament in 2019.

Single-Elimination: As all single-elimination tournaments go, one loss and you are out. This gives any seed a chance to come up with a miracle win. The means that even the favorite must go out and play every single minute to ensure a win.

“March” Madness: The tournament starts in mid-March and ends the first week of April. The 2020 tournament was canceled for the first time since its inception in 1939.

March Madness Bracket Explained

Bracket Origins: The bracket today is filled out by approximately 10 million people each year. The bracket, along with the thrill of single-elimination has propelled the tournament into one of America’s most-watched sporting events. The first tournament took place in 1939 and was won by Oregon.

“March Madness”: The term “March Madness” can be accredited to Illinois high school basketball official names Henry V. Porter. The term was cemented into the tournament’s history when CBS sportscaster Brent Musberger used it while covering the 1982 NCAA tournament. Ever since “March Madness” has been synonymous with the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

Team Selection

Automatic Bids: Each of the 32 Division I conferences hold an end-of-season tournament to crown their respective champions. These conference tournament winners are guaranteed an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. This automatic bid means even teams with mediocre seasons can make the tournament if they win their conference tournament. The final conference to adopt this auto bid was the Ivy League who adopted the rule in the 2016-17 season. The only option for independent Division I teams to make the tournament is through the at-large route. Since 2015, no team is independent as the NJIT Highlanders joined the Atlantic Sun Conference. Teams that receive the automatic bid from a small conference usually are the only team to represent their conference. This leads to funds being allocated to the conference by the NCAA. A smaller conference making it the Sweet 16 could mean a big payday for the conference.

At Large Berths: The other way teams make the field of 68 is to receive an at-large berth. Teams that do not win their conference can be offered a bid to the tournament by the NCAA’s Selection Committee. The committee takes into account a mirage of factors when deciding at large berths. In 2018, the NCAA adopted the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). This takes into account the following metrics:

– Game Results
– Strength of Schedule
– Location
– Scoring Margin
– Net Offensive and Defensive Efficiency
– Equal Weight (does not matter what point in the season)
– Quality Wins and Losses (Quadrants)

The attempt is always to be as transparent and fair as possible. This sometimes means leaving out a smaller team with a great record and inviting a major conference team with a mediocre record.

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