A frenzy of college basketball unlike any other sporting event in history. Has similarities to the NFL superbowl, with respect to getting one shot at a game, not a best of something series. 64 teams start, only one finishes.
..also a damn good reason to be born in March...

First of all, let me state that the focus of this write up will be on the Men’s Division 1 Basketball Championship. Before I start being accused of sexism or something else just as ridiculous, please bear in mind that the term “March Madness” was originally coined regarding the men’s game and in order to be true to its roots, I’m gonna leave it that way.

As a unrepentant sports junkie it should come as no surprise that this marks one of the best times of the year for me. It’s a veritable orgy of college basketball that will inevitably decide who the national champions will be. This is the time of year for “bracket busters”, "buzzer beaters" and the inevitable Cinderella team to wind their way through the tournament. ESPN will dedicate entire shows to breaking down each of the brackets and millions upon millions of entries will be submitted via their website.

For you math wizards out there, you might find this a bit interesting.

In theory, there are 9.2 quintillion different possible outcomes based on the size of the field and the number of games. Don’t feel bad though, even if you ride the chalk and pick the favorite in every game the odds of picking the entire bracket correctly are something like one in three and a half billion!

As an aside, I believe that last year (2011), of all of the entries that were submitted to ESPN, only one predicted the entire tournament correctly. Lucky bastard!

Besides the “bracketology” going on at ESPN and other websites you have office pools that will be dissected, debated and filled out across the country. Most bars also offer up some kind of contest to draw in crowds for the games and to toast the winning team. As a matter of fact, estimates are that 30 million Americans will have some kind of wager placed on the tournament and of all the money being bet, Las Vegas will only account for about four percent of the total. That my friends, is a lot of scratch.

How do I get there?

Based on regular season performance and some subjective reasoning decided by the “Selection Committee” a grand total of 68 teams qualifies for the tournament. Thirty one of those teams get what are known as “automatic bids”. They earn that spot by winning their conference championship during the regular season. The remaining thirty seven teams are chosen at large by the nefarious Selection Committee. The last four teams chosen will play to decide the remaining two slots.

Note: There has been some recent talk about expanding the size of the field to 96 or possibly 128 teams. To me, the implications this would have on “bracketology” are mind boggling.

In addition to choosing the teams, the Selection Committee also decides how the teams are “seeded” and in what region they will play. In all, there are four regions (Midwest, South, East and West) with sixteen teams assigned to each of them. All of the regions follow the same format with the number one seeded team playing the sixteenth seeded team, the number two team playing the number fifteen team and so on down the line. This is what’s known as “The Round of 64”.

Note: For any of you filling out a bracket, a number one seed has never lost to a sixteen seed. Caveat emptor.

How do I win?”

Since this a single elimination tournament, thirty two teams will be eliminated and thirty two will move on. This phase has the not so original name of “The Round of 32”.

Now here’s where it starts to get interesting. The thirty two teams that square off against each will be pared down to “The Sweet Sixteen”. The Sweet Sixteen will be pared down to “The Elite Eight” and finally, the Elite Eight will be pared down to “The Final Four”. Those four teams will square off against each other until only two teams remain to face each other for the National Championship.

Trivial Pursuits

Did you know?

The NCAA has trademarked the term “March Madness” for their exclusive use?

The term March Madness was originally given as the name of a high school basketball tournament held in Illinois way back in 1908 and wasn’t used by the NCAA until around 1939?

The lowest ranked seed (8) to win the entire tournament was Villanova back in 1985. They upset then powerhouse Georgetown University 66-64 to take home the title?

In closing

March itself is a pretty dull time here in America for sports. Football games are over and I couldn’t really give a shit about the NFL draft. The NBA and NHL are still winding down their respective regular seasons and baseball hasn’t started yet. For me, golf doesn’t really start until The Masters is played in April.

Today, I printed out the brackets, the next few days will be spent analyzing the teams and second guessing my picks. This year the tournament itself starts on Thursday, March 15, 2012. I’m sure that once tip-off begins around noon there will be countless hours of wasted productivity both on my part and from fellow sports nuts around the country.



Way too much time spent watching ESPN both at home and parked on a bar stool.

Update March 23, 2012

In what seems to be a borgo tradition, my brackets were pretty much busted after the second round. Oh well, there's always next year.

Update April 9, 2013

In breaking with tradition, I won our office pool this year. The reward for my efforts is a paid day off.

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