This. Is. It. In the words of Papa Elf from the movie “Elf,” “some people call it the show, or the big dance.” But, because it sends fans into a sort of frenzy, it is most commonly known as March Madness.
Madness? Nope, I’m not talking about those crazy ab-ridden men from Sparta, but rather about a little sport with two hoops and one ball: basketball. This is College Basketball at its finest. It is the pride, the finest treasure of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Basketball season. Technically, there are two March Madness tournaments. The NCAA Division 1 Men’s, and the NCAA Division 1 Women’s.
If you have partaken in the revelry of March Madness, you are most certainly looking forward to the coming Saturday games. If, however, you are a bit more like myself, you may be wondering what it’s all about. I went to a tiny liberal arts school with no football team, so I’ve never had much to do with tournaments of any kind (except soccer). But, as it is, I am three years out of college, and have finally been presented with a reason to find out what March Madness is.
The single-elimination tournament begins in the last two weeks of March, and ends within the first two of April (this year’s Madness began March 15, and ends this Monday, April 6), with a whopping total of 68 teams. The teams are broken up into four regions—this year, it is the North, South, West, and Midwest—with at least 16 teams each. The other four teams are placed by the selection committee into each region.
The fact that the tournament is a single-elimination, meaning that when a team wins a game they automatically advance, is probably a bit of a reason why it is so maddening. No one can be entirely confident what can happen. This gives underdog teams a fairly strong chance of making it far into the tournament.
Over the past couple of weeks, those 68 teams have been boiled down to 64 teams, to 32, then to the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, and now the Final Four. This Monday will be the National Championship game: the face-off between the season’s finest college basketball teams. The fans can hardly stand it, the coaches can hardly stand it, and the players are sweating so much, they can hardly stand it. Plus, after the lower four-ranked play the very first round, there are a total of 64 games played in only 23 days. That’s a lot of TV and/or sitting on benches. It’s pure madness.
Right now, the 2015 March Madness for Men has wrapped up the Fourth Round, the Elite Eight, and everyone is anxiously awaiting the Final Four showdown: the Duke Blue Devils vs. the Michigan State Spartans and the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the Wisconsin Badgers, this Saturday, April 4.
So how are the teams always decided? Since there are a total of 1,066 active NCAA teams, narrowing it to 68 is a surprisingly simple matter. Thirty-two of the 68 slots are automatic bids, being the champions of their conferences. The one exception to this is the Ivy League conference, as it doesn’t have a championship tournament. Instead, they send in their season champion. The remaining 36 teams awaiting to play in the Madness are selected from a selection committee, which is largely made up of athletic directors. These teams are referred to as at-large bids.
The 2015 March Madness is being called one of the best, and possibly most historic of them all. Why? Here is a brief recapping of what has been going:
- The last time there was a successful undefeated championship team was nearly 40 years ago, back in the 1975-76 season, by Indiana, and Kentucky may be the first since then. Will the Wildcats make it 40-0? Will they win it all?
- Michigan is the only team in the Final Four that wasn’t “seeded” (or ranked) as number one, and actually has a fairly good shot at making it to the championship game.
- People are really upset that Ed Cooley, the Providence coach, received a technical foul for throwing a chair while talking to his team. I honestly think the whole thing is kinda funny, as it is all part of the madness. The foul has been called “bullshit” and “most ridiculous technical foul ever.”
- Willie Cauley-Stein of the Kentucky Wildcats gave “the dunk of the tournament” against Cincinnati, and it is pretty cool to watch.
- In the Kentucky vs. Notre Dame Elite Eight game, Kentucky scored seventy-five percent of their shots in the second half, which is a pretty big deal.
Based off of the reading I’ve done, I would be betting on Kentucky to win. However, as I have a buttload of family from Michigan, I’m pulling for the Spartans too. Sixty-three games in twenty-three days? Single elimination? I see the thrill. For those as mad as hatters right now, happy March Madness, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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