March Madness for Dummies

I admit it. I was never sure what March Madness was until today. I thought it might be a weird disease at first but soon learned from my roommate it was actually a basketball phenomenon that happens every year during the 2nd week of March and last through the first week of April. Here is a quick break down so you can easily impress people with the idea that you know what the heck is going on.

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These NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournaments are an American tradition that sends millions of fans into a synchronized frenzy each year. It’s this chaos that gives the tournament its March Madness nickname. Sixty eight teams compete and there is one winner. Terrible odds right? 1300 colleges and universities make up the NCAA but only 1066 meet requirements to compete in the tournament. These schools are broken down into 3 divisions.

Division 1: These schools must sponsor at least seven sports each for men and women, or six for men and eight for women, with two team sports for each gender.

Division 2: These schools must sponsor at least five sports each for men and women (or four for men and six for women) with at least two team sports for each gender. Men and women’s basketball teams must play at least half of their games against Division I or Division II schools

Division 3: These schools must sponsor at least five sports each for men and women, with two team sports for each gender.

Now for the weird part, the teams must then be “asked out”(soo weird). The teams must be invited to the tournament by a committee which holes up in a hotel to nominate teams based on criteria. The decisions are announced during “Selection Sunday” which is March 15th. The criteria that must be met is as follows:

  • Rating Percentage Index
  • Ranking in national polls
  • Conference record
  • Road record
  • Wins versus ranked opponents
  • The way a team finishes the regular season

After this is established and teams picked, you may hear a lot of talks about “pods” and “seeds”. Seeds refer to the placement of a team in one of four regions, and pods refer to the method of grouping seeds at particular first-round and second-round sites. This is all determined by the committee (yeah the guys in the hotel room) and they set each pod of seeds to play each other. One pod has 4 competing “seeds” playing one another until a final 4 emerges. Making it to the Final Four means that a team won its first four tournament games, and it only has to win two more to be the national champions. The final game happens in April, usually in a large metropolitan city. Before you know it, it’s all over and we get to go back to our lives as usually…until football season starts.

For more info on March Madness, visit the NCAA