A Beginner’s Guide to March Madness
College basketball owns March. There is no other league or sport that’s more associated to the month than the NCAA, whose men’s basketball national tournament attracts hoops fans and bettors alike.
For those looking for a sports betting guide for the Big Dance or a March Madness guide, this informative overview of the tourney should answer plenty of questions.
What is March Madness?
Few collegiate sports draw as much attention as the NCAA’s March Madness event.
The tournament contains over 20 percent of the total teams in the top tier of college basketball. With 64 participating teams playing a total of 67 games, the Big Dance is unmatched when it comes to the amount of action packed within such a relatively short time frame.
Furthermore, the breakneck pace of the tournament attracts a wide audience. Even casual fans of the sport or those who did not have prior knowledge of the tourney often find themselves addicted to bracket competition.
This article is for those who are confused by the complex nature of March Madness.
First up is the absolute base – NCAA stands for National Collegiate Athletics Association. This non-profit organization serves as the governing body of college-level sports teams.
Under the NCAA, colleges are ranked in each sport on a scale of Division I to Division III. All teams that take part in March Madness are Division I ranked teams.
In fact, the true ‘official’ title for March Madness is the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Following decades of colloquial use, the NCAA adopted the term ‘March Madness’ in 2011.
The first tournament occurred in 1939 between only eight teams. The competition’s size remained the same for 12 years. It then expanded steadily before reaching the current composition of 64 teams in 1985. An extra four teams have joined since, necessitating the prelude ‘First Four’ games.
How are the teams seeded?
Division I basketball teams enter the NCAA Tournament in two ways. They either enter automatically or go through at-large bidding.
Teams that earn automatic participation are those who have won their local conference tournaments. These regional competitions are used to seed 32 of the teams.
The other 36 teams are at-large bids, chosen through a rigorous selection process. A special selection committee oversees this process.
The NCAA forms the committee from administrators suggested by each conference. The 10 members selected to serve pore over statistics and records to choose the 36 teams. Their final decision comes after all postseason games have been completed. The day this occurs is called Selection Sunday.
How is the NCAA Tournament organized?
The list of 68 teams is completed before the end of Selection Sunday. The selections committee then shifts to their second job – ranking the teams from the first to the 68th.
This time-consuming process involves comparing each team against one another. Referred to as scrubbing¸ it produces information used to plan the initial games. Split into four distinct regions, each initial bracket contains 16 teams. These regions are East, West, Midwest, and South.
The scrubbing process grants these teams individual bracket ‘seeds’ from 1st to 16th. Teams are then paired off with their opposite number.
As such, the 16th team goes against the first and so on down the line. This system rewards higher seeded teams for their past performances. In theory, their first game will be an easy assignment.
The lowest ranking teams take part in the preliminary ‘First Four’ games. This eliminates four teams before the main phase of the tournament kicks off.
Of note, 2018 stands as the only year in which a 16th seed team has defeated a No. 1 seed.
That was when the UMBC Retrievers became the first No. 16 team to advance to the second round of the tournament by beating the heavily favored Virginia Cavaliers in the first round.
How does the NCAA Tournament Works?
On March 19th and 20th, the First Four will face off to battle for a chance to participate in March Madness proper. These teams will then enter the full bracket, which begins March 21st and runs through March 24th.
In that brief time-span, 64 teams will face off in 32 separate games with surviving teams earning a chance to move on to the Sweet Sixteen phase of the tournament.
Four days after the first round, the Sweet Sixteen begins on March 28th. On this date, the South and West regions compete. They’re joined on the 29th by the East and Midwest regions.
Eight of the competing teams will move on to the Elite Eight competitions held on March 30th and 31st. The last four teams that emerge will compete in the Final Four on April 6th.
Finally, this will lead into the NCAA Championship game on April 8th. Barely over two weeks from the start of the tournament, one team will emerge as the winner.
At that point, they’ve outplayed 346 other teams to cement their place as the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball champions.
Nitrogen Sports Blog will dish out more March Madness pieces as the tournament progresses, so be sure to check out the latest updates on this page.