March Madness

All you need to know about the NCAA basketball March Madness tournament

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March Madness - What does it actually mean?

Don’t worry, it’s not a full month of us going mad doing crazy things. It’s a very popular sporting event that grips the whole of America and picks out the best basketball players at the college level. March Madness is the name given to the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament. The winner will be crowned the overall national college champion.

The tournament, which was first introduced in 1939, includes the champions from 32 Division 1 National Collegiate Athletic Association. It also includes 36 extra teams that are chosen by an NCAA selection committee.

March Madness was the original idea of Ohio State coach Harold Olsen and it has become so popular in the United States. It is one of the most famous annual sporting events in the country, in terms of viewing figures and money placed through betting.

UCLA has won the most titles in the history of the tournament with 11 to their name. They won their first one back in 1964 when they beat Duke 98-83. Their final triumph coming in 1995 when they defeated Arkansas 89-78. Kentucky is next in line with eight title wins with their most recent one being in 2012. That was a 67-59 success over Kansas.

Virginia Cavaliers are the current holders of the NCAA Division 1 title. They needed an overtime win over Texas Tech Red Raiders in Minnesota to take the spoils 85-77. That was the first time the Cavaliers have tasted success in the NCAA March Madness.

FAQ

What year did the March Madness start?

The first March Madness took place in 1939 with Oregon defeating Ohio State 46-33 at the Patten Gymnasium in Evanston, Illinois.

Why is it called March Madness?

March Madness goes back to 1908 when the Illinois High School Association started to sponsor a statewide tournament and by 1939 it became so popular that it was always sold out at the University of Illinois Gymnasium.

It was eventually dubbed ‘March Madness’ after Henry V Porter wrote an essay about it, the nickname took off and was being used by the media until the IHSA took out the trademark in 1989.

Who has won the most March Madness titles?

UCLA has won the most titles in the history of the tournament. They have 11 titles to their name – the first one coming in 1964 when they defeated Duke 98-83. Their final title win was back in 1995 when they beat defending champions Arkansas 89-78.

When does March Madness get underway?

March Madness gets underway with the First Four matches on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18. The final of the tournament will take place on Monday, April 6, 2020, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

How many teams take place in the NCAA March Madness?

The first ever March Madness tournament in 1939 saw eight teams compete for the maiden title. That number has grown over the years with 68 teams now competing for glory. Thirty two places go to the 32 conference winners, while the remaining 36 places go to teams courtesy of at-large bids that are selected by a selection committee.

How are the teams seeded for the NCAA March Madness?

The NCCA selection committee individually rates each team based on their performance during their regular campaign.

Who is the NCAA March Madness selection committee?

The selection committee for the NCCA March Madness is a 10-member panel. They are responsible for selecting, seeding and bracketing the teams. School and conference administrators are selected by their own conference and serve a term of five years.

Who won the NCAA March Madness in 2019?

The 2019 edition of March Madness was won by the Virginia Cavaliers as they needed overtime to see off the Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-77 at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 2019 success was their first March Madness title victory.

Can I watch March Madness live on television?

This year’s tournament will see games broadcast live on CBS, TBS, and TNT.

How much has the NCAA March Madness changed over the years?

The first ever NCAA March Madness took place in 1939 and had just eight teams competing. That number doubled to 16 in 1951 and kept expanding as the years went by. In 1985 that number spread to a 64-team tournament. One more was soon added prior to the introduction of the first round. Then in 2011 three more teams were added to the mix to have the 68-team competition we have today.

 

What is March Madness - How does it work?

The structure of March Madness has changed a number of times over the years. The current format has been in play since 2011 and has no real plans to be changed again.

It started off with a total of eight teams competing for the main prize in 1939. The number of participants has risen over the years. By 1985 there were a staggering 64 teams taking part. One more was added before the Final Four scenario came into play. That was the case until 2011 when three more teams were added to give is the structure we have today.

A total of 68 teams will compete in March Madness. Thirty two teams are picked automatically as the champions of their respective conferences.

The remaining 36 teams are granted what is known as an at-large berth. This is when an NCAA selection committee research the remaining teams and choose what they believe are the best teams that did not win their championship. It is believed that teams with stronger reputations or ones that can produce more revenue are rated higher than other teams with a similar on-court record.

After all the teams have qualified and the selection committee has chosen the required 36 teams to make up the roster of 68, it will then be determined which teams are allocated their regions.

For March Madness, this basketball tournament is split into four regions with each region having at least 16 teams. The names vary from year to year and are broadly geographic like West, South, East, and Midwest.

The selection committee ranks the field of 68 teams from 1-68 before being split into their regions. This is also known as brackets. The top four teams will be distributed among the regions and will be allocated the number one spot. The next best four will be ranked number two and that cycle continues until all the spots are filled.

The NCAA March Madness selection committee have to closely monitor how they rank matters. They are instructed to ensure that, wherever possible, that same conference teams cannot meet each other until the regional finals.

They also attempt to keep teams apart for the opening rounds. Teams who have clashed in a regular-season contest or past tournaments should not meet so early.

The tournament consists of several different rounds – They are as follows:

  • The First Four
  • The First Round (the Round of 64)
  • The Second Round (the Round of 32)
  • The Regional Semi-finals
  • The Regional Finals
  • The National Semi-finals
  • The National Championship

First Four

The four lowest-ranked automatically chosen teams will compete to receive the number 16 seeds. The four lowest-ranked at-large teams battle it out for the number 11 seeds. This is classed as the Final Four.

The Final Four was first introduced in 2011.

First and Second Rounds

The first round sees the number one seed take on number 16 in all regions. Rank number two battles 15 and so on until all the matches have been selected. The aim of the ranking system ensures a better team receives a higher position and will face a so-called weaker opponent.

Sixteen first-round games will be played following the First Four round on a Thursday. Sixteen more matches take place the following day. This will then see the tournament reduce to 32 teams.

The second round will get underway on Saturday and Sunday as soon as the first round is completed. Once all second-round matches are finished, the tournament will have 16 teams remaining.

Regional semi-finals and finals

The remaining teams will now battle it out in the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ and ‘Elite Eight’. All these matches will be played during the second weekend of the tournament. Four regional semi-finals will take place on Thursday and another four on Friday. That will leave eight teams left in the competition and they will go on to fight it out in the Elite Eight to determine the ‘Final Four’.

Final Four

The winners of each region will go on to the Final Four. The national semi-finals will take place on Saturday with the final going ahead on Monday.

Strength of Schedule

Strength of Schedule is a very popular term when it comes to American sports. It basically refers to the difficulty a team’s opponent is compared to another one through their win percentage. This has been deemed extremely important in a league that teams don’t play their opponents the same number of times.

The Strenght of Schedule can be displayed in two ways. One sees the scheduled measured in distance from the average. This means half of the team’s Strength of Schedule are because of positive numbers, while the other half are negative. The higher the number you receive, the stronger the schedule.

In some places, a team’s Strength of Schedule is displayed as rank amongst all teams. This means the lower the number, the stronger their schedule will be.

Teams with a Strength of Schedule ranked from six to 15 have enjoyed more success in recent years.

NCCA Men's Basketball NET Rankings

The main function of the NCAA’s Evaluation Tool (NET) is to sort teams in to four quadrants. The selection committee will then study them in order to rank them correctly.

Basically, if you are a decent team and manage to beat similar ranked teams around you and don’t lose to the so-called worse teams, then you will gain a solid NET ranking.

It is essentially a results based factor that determines your rank. Beating a team that you are fully expected to defeat won’t really affect your ranking. Losing to a team you should be beating will hurt your ranking score.

The ultimate goal of the NET ranking system is to paint a true reflection of how a team has done throughout the season.

The committee concentrates on winning games and that’s the main issue here. The formula of the average net efficiency in terms of offense and defense is taken into account. Also, the winning percentage comes into play on where the games will eventually be played.

The system is there to determine who are the best teams. Over a full season, that should be clear. It’s simple – win your games – easy!

Cinderella Story

Cinderella story – what does that actually mean?

It doesn’t mean you find a glass slipper on the court and the one who gets it to fit is the champions. That would be ridiculous.

In terms of Cinderella when it comes to the NCAA March Madness, it is a term given to a team that is not expected to do well. It seems almost every year, a team exceeds what is expected of them. They are more often than not an afterthought when the teams are selected. But they prove everyone wrong and end up being the talking point of March Madness.

Everyone loves a Cinderella team. Most of the time fans would rather focus their energy on a team given no chance and watch how they progress through the tournament.

You may think this occurs once in a blue moon. You would be wrong, a Cinderella team appears nearly every year and they are remembered for a long time.

Here are a few of the best Cinderella stories during March Madness:

Penn

Despite winning their eight Ivy League title in 10 years, no one was really giving Penn a chance in 1979. They would shock the world by putting a run together which would be seen as one of the original Cinderella stories.

Penn defeated number one seed North Carolina, fourth seed Syracuse and number 10 seed St John’s as they proved they meant business. They managed to march onto the Final Four and were dumped out by Michigan State – who happened to have Magic Johnson in their side.

This run by Penn saw them become the first team to beat three higher ranked teams to reach the Final Four. They would not be the last.

North Carolina State

The term ‘miracle’ is used a lot in sport – maybe too much. But in 1983, North Carolina State produced one of those miracles to become NCAA champions.

They lost 10 games in their campaign and weren’t actually guaranteed a spot. They qualified by winning the ACC tournament and kicked on from there.

After a run of five successive wins, they went up against Houston Chargers. On the Chargers side that day were future NBA Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack won the final in the closing seconds thaks to a mid-air dunk from Lorenzo Charles to become champions.

Villanova

In 1985, Villanova managed to win the NCAA championship as number eight seed. This is the lowest seed of any title winning side in history. They entered the tournament with a record of 19-10 and failed to win any of their first three March Madness games by more than five points. Their form improved dramatically and they defeated Georgetown in the final. They won that game 66-64.

LSU

The LSU Tigers are the only team ranked number 11 to beat teams seeded one, two and three in the same tournament. This took place in 1986 as the Tigers also became the first number 11 to qualify for the Final Four.

They defeated the likes of Memphis State, Georgia Tech and Kentucky that year. Their run finally came to an end in the national semi-final game as they went down to Louisville.

George Mason

Many believed that George Mason would not make the 2006 NCAA March Madness. They did not receive an automatic bid as they lost in the semi-finals of the CAA tournament.

They were then given the number 11 seed as an at-large bid and made up for lost time. They got the better of the likes of Michigan State, North Carolina, and Connecticut as they marched on to the Final Four.

Their ‘Cinderella’ story came to an end in the Final Four when George Mason were eliminated by Florida. George Mason were the first CAA team to qualify for the Final Four. They were also the second number 11 seed to reach the semi-finals – after LSU.

Butler

Butler came into the 2011 tournament as the number eight seed. They almost exited in the first round as they struggled to get past Old Dominion. The Bulldogs went on to beat Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Florida, and VCU to reach the final. Their journey ended at the final hurdle as they were beaten by Uconn.

Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast were ranked number 15 back in 2013. They managed to become the first 15 seed to ever reach the Sweet 16. They picked up wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. They were eventually knocked out in the Sweet 16 at the hands of Florida.

Syracuse

Syracuse entered the 2016 NCAA March Madness tournament with a point to prove. They had handed themselves a self-imposed postseason ban the year before and were determined to return with a bang. They got victories over Dayton, Middle Tennessee, and Gonzaga to make it through to the Final Four. One of the main reasons they did so well was the form of Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinjie.

They continued their fine form with victory over number one seed Virginia with Richardson scoring 21 points in the second half as they came from behind. Their run came to an end in the national semi-final as they went down to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Loyola Chicago

The Loyola Chicago Ramblers are another team that ranked 11 and made it to the Final Four. They managed to record victories over the likes of Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State. It looked like they were going to go all the way in 2018, but they were then knocked out in the Final Four by Michigan.

Where is it played?

March Madness will see teams play games at neutral venues. Teams are not allowed to compete on their home court prior to the Final Four.

The current NCAA rule book states that any court that a team hosts three or more matches on is considered a home court. So that means they would not be able to play any matches there. The only exception to that rule occurred in 2015 when the University of Dayton played their First Four game in their home arena.

A team can be moved to another region during the first fortnight of the tournament. However, the Final Four venue is determined a couple of years in advance. That is set in stone and cannot be changed no matter who the participants are.

That means a team could potentially play their Final Four matches on their home court. This is unlikely as the finals take place in venues bigger than regular college courts. The last team to play in their home city was Butler in 2010 with the final being held at the Lucas Oil Stadium.

The 2020 tournament will be the 82nd edition and will get underway on Tuesday, March 17, It comes to a close with the NCAA March Madness national championship game on Monday, April 6 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Below is the schedule for the 2020 March Madness and where each round will take place:

First Four

Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18:

  • University of Dayton Arena, Dayton Ohio

First and Second Rounds

Thursday, March 19 and Saturday, March 21:

  • Times Union Center, Albany, New York
  • Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington
  • Enterprise Center, St Louis, Missouri
  • Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay, Florida

Friday, March 20 and Sunday, March 22:

  • Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • CHI Health Center Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
  • Rocket Mortgage Field House, Cleveland, Ohio

Regional Semifinals and Finals (Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight):

Thursday, March 26 and Saturday, March 28:

  • Midwest Regional – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • West Regional – Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

Friday, March 27 and Sunday, March 29:

  • South Regional – Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
  • East Regional – Madison Square Garden, New York

National Semifinals and Championship (Final Four and Championship)

Saturday, April 4 and Monday, April 6

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Betting on March Madness

March Madness is a very popular tournament when it comes to betting. Many sports betting vendors offer a wide range of markets on every game.

The most popular markets undertaken during March Madness include the following:

Single Game Bets

This market is one of the simplest ones on offer. This market allows the punter to get involved in the individual outcome of any game during NCAA March Madness.

All you need to do with this market is to pick the winner of said match, Not a lot of thought is needed for these kinds of bets. Just which one to put your faith and money in.

Tournament Winner Bets

This betting market is harder to be successful in, but it can end up being more lucrative. To win this bet, all you need to do is choose who will become the overall national champion.

It seems easy, but as we all know betting is not that simple. The thrill of watching your selected team progress throughout the tournament is very satisfying. Although, if your team falls in the early stages then you are out of the race altogether.

The Almighty Bracket Bet

This market is by far the most popular one when it comes to March Madness. Once the full bracket has been released, you will then be able to bet on the outcome of every game leading up to the winner of the overall tournament.

You need to pick a winner for every game. Your selections need to be completed before the tournament gets underway.

A points system will help determine who has the best bracket. The rules for the points are determined by whatever pool you are entering in. Points are handed out for each correct pick.

The more correct picks you select in the opening round, the more chances you have to make correct points in the next round.

Recommended Sportsbooks

Picks & Predictions on March Madness

As we all know, there is no such thing as a dead cert when it comes to betting. When it comes to March Madness though, you can use a little bit of tactics.

We already know that the top-ranked teams will be kept apart from the start. So choosing a number one ranked side to get the better of rank number 16 is basically a no brainer.

We see in other sports that backing the underdog pays off quite a lot. But in March Madness, the ultimate prize is massive and the more talented teams shine through.

Another popular avenue in betting terms is when you bet against the spread. This is slightly more complicated but can prove lucrative. If you are backing the favorite to cover the spread, then you need them to win the game by more than the points suggested in the spread.

Here is an example of how it works: The market for Florida versus Nevada will have odds available at +4.5 and -4.5 respectively. This means if you back Nevada then they need to secure a victory over  4.5 points. If you back that and they lose the game 80-76, your bet will win because it beats the spread.

We’ve already covered the best backed markets during March Madness. There is another market that proves popular during the NCAA March Madness tournament. There is an option to bet on over/under points total for each game.

Going back to Florida versus Nevada as an example. You can back on over 145 points or under 145 points. If you decide to choose over 145 and the score ends up 75-72, then your bet comes in. If you go under 145 and the score is the same, then you lose.

Aside from individual matches, you can bet on the overall outcome by backing the tournament winner. It‘s easy to plump for your team or sticking some money on the favorites, but there is more to it than that. Last season‘s winner Virginia were available at +950 before the start of the tournament. Meaning that if you backed them to win at $100, you would have won $950.

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