March Madness Facts

When some people hear the expression “March Madness,” they have no idea what it means. Others have never even heard it at all. It is, in fact, a reference to the single elimination tournament involving 65 USA college basketball teams. It lasts for three weeks between March and April, mostly in March: hence the term.

H.V. Porter, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, is credited with being the first person to use “March Madness” to refer to a basketball contest. And CBS sports announcer Brent Misburger is said to have popularized the phrase, for which the IHSA (Illinois High School Association) and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) have jointly been granted trademark rights.

In the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship (or “March Madness” as it is now popularly known), 65 teams qualify, with 30 teams earning automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments.
The main tournament is divided into four regions which are subjected to a “seeding” process that aims at being as fair as possible. (Seeding means that players are selected in such a way that those matched in the later stages of the contest do not play against each other in the early stages.)

The beauty of the tournament format is such that it affords “Cinderella” teams an opportunity to advance even though they play against higher seeded teams. (Cinderella refers to a fairy-tale character and means someone whose merit is generally unrecognized.)

The opening round, which is known as the play-in-game, takes place on the Tuesday before the first weekend of the tournament.
The first and second round games are played on the first weekend of the tournament, either on Thursday and Saturday or on Friday and Sunday.
The regional semifinals (the Sweet Sixteen) and the finals (the Elite Eight) are played during the second weekend of the tournament, on the same days as the first and second round games.

The winners of each region go on to participate in the national semifinals (the Final Four) which are played on Saturday. The national championship is played on Monday.

The events connected with the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship are now among the nation’s most celebrated. In fact, the excitement they produce can reach such a fevered pitch as to make the term “March Madness” far from exaggerated.


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