Each year, basketball fans enthusiastically welcome the start of spring thanks to two words: March Madness. Sixty-eight collegiate basketball teams compete for the title of national champion in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, which is a series of games that span from March to April. Here’s what you need to know about March Madness and how you, too, can get in on the action.
Sixty-eight NCAA teams from colleges nationwide claim a spot in the tournament. Thirty-two teams receive automatic spots in the tournament from winning their Division I conferences. The remaining 36 teams are selected via special committee on the Sunday before the first games begin (also called, “Selection Sunday”), at which time the teams are also ranked.
The 68 teams are divided into four regions and an initial round of games immediately whittles out four teams, leaving 64 (16 teams in each region). The remaining 64 teams go on to play the tournament over the next three weeks, with rank determining who plays whom. Each week, three quarters of the teams are eliminated. The teams first play against their own region to narrow the total team count from 64 to 16 (four per region; also called the “Sweet Sixteen”), and then ultimately the best of each region plays to determine the champion in the last round known as the “Final Four.”
Tournament games for each region are held on neutral courts across the United States. This year, winners from each region come together to battle it out in the Final Four games in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The madness kicks off with Selection Sunday on March 15th. Games begin on Tuesday, March 17th, and run until the national championship on Monday, April 6th.
How to Join
Creating a tournament bracket, which lays out your picks for each game, is a fun and popular way to get in on the excitement, whether or not you’ve been following college basketball all season. There are many ways to start a bracket, from creating a pool among a group of work pals to playing along with millions of other excited fans online. Many of the major sporting websites have tools that allow you to easily create a bracket, including ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and Yahoo. Join basketball enthusiasts, professional sports analysts, and even President Barack Obama in agonizing over bracket selections and maybe you’ll be the first person to ever assemble a perfect bracket.
Where to Watch
With a total of 67 games happening over a three-week period, there’s a lot of action to keep tabs on! Watch it on TV on CBS and Turner or stream it online through NCAA’s March Madness Live.
But wait, there’s more! While most of the media frenzy around March Madness is focused on the men’s games, the NCAA Women’s Division I Championship happens at the same time, with their championship games being held this year in Tampa Bay. That means there are another 63 games of basketball-watching and bracket-making fun to be had. March Madness, indeed.
– By Samantha B. Rivers, Editor