March Madness for Dummies!

It’s March so you know what that means: MARCH MADNESS is in full effect! Yea, yea, yea St. Patrick’s Day is cool and all but college basketball rules this month.  March is all about that rock—that’s a basketball for all you b-ball novices—the quest for NCAA dominance and, of course a RING! The only green seen is in the envious eyes of those teams that didn’t make the 68 team cut…that and the occasional green in the teams’ uniforms like those Miami Hurricanes (Yes that was a shameless but proud plug for my alma mater)! You know you care.  It’s all about the U! I digress,….So what is March Madness all about?

March Madness is the NCAA’s Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, a tournament held over the course of three weekends at neutral sites across the country to determine who’s the best college team in the nation.   It’s referred to as March Madness or the Big Dance because most of the games happen in March. It’s one of the most well-known and celebrated annual sporting events in the US.  Now, this article is meant to teach, so let me break it down a little further:

  1. Champions from 31 conferences receive an automatic bid (aka guaranteed entry)
  2. 37 teams are awarded “at-large” berths or bids.  Translation: a NCAA committee selects the remaining teams.
  3. All 68 teams are divided into 4 regions and organized into a single elimination bracket, a chart that tracks teams in the tourney and shows who their next potential opponent will be.  Click here for an example.
  4. Teams are seeded (or ranked) within their region.  Rankings are determined by a combination of poll rankings, regular season records, conference standings and,of course, a little politics.  Let’s face it, there’s a little politics in every industry including sports; it wouldn’t be so damn entertaining without a little controversy and drama!  I’m just calling it like I see it, don’t’ shoot the messenger.
  5. Then…it’s GAME TIME!

Now that all the technical stuff is covered, it’s on to the action!  After the First Four games are played between the scrubs…I mean the lowest ranked teams–they are technically fighting for the last 4 of those 68 spots–the real excitement begins.  All the scrubs (did I say that again?) are matched up against higher ranked teams (see this year’s bracket HERE).  After that each weekend is so exciting because it will be the kiss of death for someone as three quarters of the teams will be eliminated.  That’s when you get to the really good stuff: Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four.

Side Note:  The Final Four is sometimes played in April and they can’t technically refer to it as March Madness, so another fancy name was born…April Apprehension.  Sucks right?! I know, but it is fitting because those Final Four teams (one from each region) are usually the cream of the crop and clearly motivated to reach the Big Dance (aka the National Championship).

If you include the National Championship game, there are seven rounds to the tournament.  Predictions for this year’s rounds look a little something like this:

  • First Four: North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty, Middle Tennessee vs. St. Mary’s (Cali), LIU Brooklyn vs. James Madison and Boise State vs. La Salle.  The favorites to win are NC A&T, Middle Tennessee, James Madison and La Salle.
  • Midwest Region: Overall tournament seed, #1 Louisville is expected to run the table all the way to the final round. Others expected to hang tough, in what is believed to be the easiest region to predict, include Michigan State and the tournament experienced Duke squad.
  • West Region: Top 4 seeds in this region, Gonzaga, Ohio State, New Mexico and Kansas State are all expected to make it to the semi-finals (Sweet 16). However, upsets are highly possible by a youth driven Wisconsin and Arizona who enters the tourney with a huge chip on their shoulder and a lot to prove.

Now here’s where the going gets tough. The next 2 regions are equally good but harder to predict because winners can go either way. Winners are going to be determined literally by a single statistic…turnovers. Whoever controls the ball better and forces more turnovers wins!

  • South Region: Like the West region,  the top 4 seeds (Kansas, Georgetown, Florida and Michigan) are expected to make it to the Sweet Sixteen.  But don’t sleep on VCU and North Carolina. VCU is one of the best coached teams in the country, one of the highest scoring teams in the tournament and leads the nation in steals. Can you say formidable? North Carolina has all the intangibles, talent and is one of the best teams on the boards (rebounding). If they can be consistent and come out of the box (under the basket in transition) fast, they can’t be stopped.
  • East Region: Home to The U (did you think it was over?)! The #2 seeded Miami enters the tournament on a historic run for the school and are expected to to join Indiana and Syracuse in the semis.  The Butler and Bucknell matchup could go either way (the teams are near identical) with the winner ultimately losing to Marquette who is the last team predicted to make it to the semis round.

These are just my predictions: Trust me everyone has their own opinion about who’s going to or not going to advance, and you can too!   Whether you get March Madness or not, you can still have a little fun with it by making your own predictions and filling out a bracket (click here).  Now, I hope  you do understand how March Madness works.  If not, just re-read this article about six more times and I promise you’ll get it!

Let the games begin!

–FP

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