March Madness: Then and Now

By: Carter Caldwell and Lauren Redfern

March is an exciting time for college basketball fans. The tournament decides who the National Champions will be. 68 teams have an opportunity to hoist up the trophy at the end of the month. But how did this beloved tourney begin?

The History of March Madness

The first tournament took place in 1939, and was created by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The idea came from Harold Olsen, the Ohio State coach at the time. From 1939-1950, the tournament had 8 teams. Then, for the ’51 to ’52 season, the number of teams allowed expanded to 16. The allotted number of teams invited continued to increase through the years. The more teams added, the more popular the event became.

The format that we see today was established in 2011. 68 teams make the tournament, but only 64 play in the “real deal.” To be part of the 64, 8 teams play what are called play-in games. 8 teams play in what is known as the First Four. These play-in games have been happening since the early 1980s. However, the name was not given till 2011 and the original procedure was inconsistent. The host of the First Four is the University of Dayton. The winner of the four games then enters the big bracket. The seeds of these contests includes four 16 seeds and four other teams seeded from 11-15, but all four are the same seed.

The tournament has always been single-elimination. In Division I basketball, there are 32 Conferences. The champions of each conference tournament receives an automatic bid into the tournament. Then, 36 teams are chosen for what is called an at-large berth. The “at-large” teams are chosen by a group of individuals. This group is called the NCAA selection committee. Then the teams are split into 4 regions. The tournament starts with 64 and ends with 1.

Although the format of the “Big Dance” has not been the same and has gone through a lot of changes, it continues to bond our nation together for one month of the year. Workplaces have a pool for the most accurate bracket, watch parties on selection Sunday are held, and much more. The hype that surrounds the events definitely has not been altered when describing the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

March Madness Today

This year’s tournament has certainly been different from previous ones. After a relatively dull first round, only six upsets took place. Curiously, three of those upsets were eleven seeds overtaking six seeds, with the only six seed to move onto the second round being Ohio’s own University of Cincinnati. Unfortunately the University of Dayton was upset by the Wichita State Shockers by 6, which was overshadowed two days later when the Shockers faced the Kentucky Wildcats in a match-up that many believed to be taking place too early. In the same tournament just 3 years ago, the teams faced each other, this time with Wichita as the top seed and Kentucky as an eight seed. That game was a two-point loss for the Shockers, while this year’s was a three-point loss.

Another match-up that is said to have happened too soon was that of Villanova and Wisconsin. The Villanova Wildcats were entering the tournament with the number one seed overall, while the Wisconsin Badgers had an eight seed for their region and the 29th seed overall. Despite this, the Badgers bested the Wildcats in a 62-65 victory on March 18 in New York. However, many felt that Wisconsin was seeded unbelievably low, and that the teams should not have met this early in the tournament. People making this claim cite the team’s past successes (two Final Four appearances in the last four years) and the unwarranted fact that they had a lower seed than Minnesota, a team the Badgers had one more win than and had beaten twice. Another major upset in the East occurred when the seventh seeded South Carolina overtook the second seeded Duke Blue Devils.

Despite the East’s incredible surprises, it was a game from the Midwest that put an end to the longest verified perfect bracket in the history of the NCAA tournament. In game 40 of the tournament, Purdue took Iowa State in a four point game, whereas the previously unblemished bracket had Iowa State. However, even if the Cyclones had won, the bracket would have met its demise with Michigan State’s victory over Louisville.

The road to the Sweet Sixteen has been hard-earned by the teams that made it. This includes three number-one seeds, all four four-seeds, and eleven seed Xavier, the only one of four Ohio teams left. Despite the many incorrect predictions, it is certain that the games will have fans glued to their TVs.


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