The NCAA Division I Men’s asketball tournament, also known as March Madness, is one of the most popular sporting events in the US. But just how much do you know about it? We will go through some of the most important facts so you will be able to get a good feeling of how important college sports are in the US.
March Madness Basics
March Madness is a single-elimination tournament played every spring. Currently, it features 68 college basketball teams from the Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. They compete in seven rounds for the national championship and the penultimate round, when there are only four teams left, is called the Final Four.
The teams consist of champions from 32 Division I conferences and 36 more teams that are awarded at-large berths. The second group of teams is chosen by the NCAA selection committee.
The teams are divided into four regions (East, South, Midwest, and West) and organized into a single-elimination “bracket”. When a team wins a game, it is predetermined which team it will face next. After the First Four, the tournament proceeds during the course of three weekends, at pre-selected neutral sites across the US, until the last weekend of the tournament – the “Final Four” round. The Final Four is usually played during the first weekend of April. At that point, four teams – one from each region, compete in a preselected location for the national championship.
History and Mid-Major March Madness Teams
The tournament was the idea of Ohio State coach Harold Olsen and it was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
It was referred to as March Madness for the first time when a CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger called it that during the coverage of the 1982 tournament. The term became synonymous for the tournament ever since.
Mid-Major Teams is not an official NCAA term, but it is very much associated with it, even if some fans find it a bit insulting. The term, which was coined in 1977 by coach Jack Kvancz, refers to men’s basketball teams from athletic conferences that are not among the so-called “Power Five conferences” (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) which are sometimes also called “high majors”.
The last time a mid-major team won the National Championship was in 1990. That year UNLV won with a 103–73 win over Duke. And the last time an independent mid-major team (a team that doesn’t belong to any conference) won the National Championship, was in 1977 when Marquette won with a 67–59 win over North Carolina.
The March Madness Craze
The tournament’s popularity has been closely tied to its TV coverage. It has been at least partially televised since 1969. Currently, the tournament is broadcast by CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV under the trade-name NCAA March Madness.
In 2011 the networks signed a 14-year contract with the NCAA and paid $10,800 million to broadcast the tournament. In 2018 the contract was extended until 2032. This means that the average annual payment is $891 million. All games are available for viewing nationwide and internationally since 2011.
The tournament’s popularity has grown with the growth of its television coverage. At the moment millions of Americans fill out a bracket, attempting to predict the outcome of 63 games of the tournament. This also means that every time March Madness arrives, big money is being bet on college basketball favorite teams and individual games in states all across the US. It will be interesting to see how the odds will play out this season. World Sports Network has all the latest predictions of the biggest sporting event of March.
And, when it comes to sports betting, we might be on a brink of a great change. In 2018 New Jersey was the first state to legalize sports betting and this was of great help to the state’s economy. Online gambling has grown every month of 2020, including an 87% increase in November over 2019’s $49 million. This means that in New Jersey online gambling, along with sports betting, has generated more than $870 million in revenue, which was a 101% increase compared to 2019.
And now it seems quite possible that the biggest US state will follow the example of New Jersey. On January 8th, 2020 the Joint Assembly and Senate Governmental Organization Committees meeting was held in California’s state capital, with the aim of getting input from experts on the potential effects of the legalization of sports betting. If it went through, California would become the biggest sports betting market in the US. It is estimated that its sports betting market could be worth $2.5 billion per year if it included mobile sports betting. And there was never a shortage of great college basketball teams from California to bet on. We would all be eager to see California fans betting on Golden Bears, as NJ can on Scarlet Knights.
2021 March Madness
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the tournament too, and the 2021 March Madness will be unlike any tournament that has come before it.
For the first time ever, the NCAA will host the entire tournament in one geographic location. This was announced in early January when the NCAA stated that the entire 2021 men’s basketball championship will be played in Indiana, with the majority of the tournament’s 67 games taking place in Indianapolis. Selection Sunday is still scheduled for March 14, and the Final Four is planned for April 3 and 5.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, in addition to Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, and Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
The bracket will also be handled a little bit differently, as the teams will be placed in it based on rankings without the usual considerations for geography.
The scale of the tournament, its history, network coverage, popularity, and the amount of money invested in it, shows just how big and important college sports are in the US. The very name March Madness is an indicator of the tournament’s iconic status. And despite the changed conditions caused by the pandemic, this year’s March Madness is promising to be the usual spectacular event American audiences are used to.
Main Image Credit: