In the late weeks of March and into the first week of April, the entire sports world is abuzz with the excitement of March Madness and the NCAA National Championship in men’s basketball. But March Madness wouldn’t just get it’s name if favorites were beating underdogs on a regular basis. Instead, the tournament plays host to some of the craziest and wildest upsets of all time. There are David vs. Goliath matchups that turn no-name schools into household topics. There are buzzer beaters that break bettors brackets. And there is almost always a Cinderella team that the entire nation jumps on the back of and starts showing support for. Here is a further look into March Madness and what it means for millions of sports fans and bettors around the world.
Some March Madness History
The first ever NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament was held back in 1939. In that year, only eight teams competed in a single-elimination tournament where Oregon won it all against Ohio State. Oklahoma and Villanova rounded out the remaining teams in the first ever Final Four in a historic tournament. To say that the tournament has changed it’s format, would certainly be a bit of an understatement.
Now, the tournament includes 68 different teams from around the nation. This number has fluctuated in recent years, as it now includes four play-in games that are referred to as the “First Four.” Typically, these four games are between teams that were on the bubble for making the NCAA Tournament and they will be given the last opportunity to play their way into the Big Dance. But once these four games are played, the tournament is then set in place with every team getting ready for their chance to make history.
The tournament then shifts to the Field Of 64. This includes 64 of the top teams in the nation with the best RPI throughout their respective regular seasons in their conferences. Some teams that make the tournament automatically do so by winning their own conference tournament outright, while others have to prove they deserve a spot, which can usually be demonstrated through a strong performance and a proven strength of schedule. All of these teams, along with those who make the First Four matchups, are all selected during a process referred to as Selection Sunday. This day is almost like the Black Friday to the holiday season. It represents that the tournament is on its way, and only madness will soon develop.
The Tournament Today
The first two days of the tournament are often the wildest that people will see. While most people would assume that favorites will always beat underdogs, from 2011-2014, seven different #12-seeds were able to upset #5-seeds. Because of this, drawing a 12/5 matchup on the opening day has become a bit of a curse that many teams hope to avoid. However, the only team that is truly safe on the first day of the tournament is the schools that draw the top-spot in their respective region. After all, in the entire history of March Madness, a 16-seed has never upset a 1-seed in the first round. However, there have been plenty of 15’s over 2’s, and the list only continues, as the matchups get closer in seeding.
After the first two days, the teams are narrowed down to 32 teams that now play in 16 different games. And because of how many upsets that can potentially happen in the first round, it’s just as likely that a #12-seed could be playing a #13-seed as it is a #4-seed playing a #5-seed, and all of this could potentially happen in the same exact bracket. If you are still wondering where the name March Madness comes from, that’s your answer!
After the opening weekend, half of the field has been eliminated and 8 teams remain in the Sweet 16. The beautiful part of the Sweet 16 is that it is a week after the first weekends games. That means that for Cinderella teams like Florida Gulf Coast or Wichita State in 2013, get the chance to go home and share with their classmates and the rest of their university the success that they have garnered over huge goliath-like teams like Duke and Kansas.
Also in the same weekend of the Sweet 16 is the Elite 8. Obviously, the eight winners from the Sweet 16 advance to the Elite 8 and will play one another for spots in the Final Four. The Final Four and the Championship game happen another week after the Sweet 16, which is typically the first week in April. That means that if you haven’t gotten enough of March Madness, it’ll creep into April just as much! At the end of it all, the nation will have a new champion and a team of college students will be on top of the college basketball world. And whether it was a #1-seed that endured it all or a low seed that shocked the world, everyone loves to see who can endure what it takes to win the entire tournament.
March Madness Odds, Betting Lines & Brackets
But what really gets people caught up in March Madness starts back on Selection Sunday.
It’s at this point that brackets are released for every game that is going to be played. And while for college athletes this is a chance to see who you’ll be playing against, it’s up to bettors to try and predict the games to win money and what are the best odds. When it comes to betting on March Madness, there are a few different ways it can be done. There are countless bracket pools in offices and on online websites around the world. Most of these pools require a sum of money to put into, and the person who has the most points –which are awarded based off who wins their games- gets the money at the end of the tournament. For Vegas, there are plenty of chances to bet on games straight up with odds presented before each game. Or for those that feel very confident in their teams, there is also the chance to take part in parlay bets to try and ride one team all the way through the National Championship. There are plenty of betting options for the March Madness tournament, which makes it equally as maddening off the court as it does on.
Even the least-enthusiastic basketball fans enjoy March Madness. There are plenty of stories of individuals who win office pools betting lines based off choosing teams colors or mascots, rather than the matchups themselves. And whenever a low seed knocks off a heavyweight contender like Duke or Kansas, the entire world will take notice. That is what makes March Madness as exciting as it is, and also one of the most exciting times in all of sports each year.