March Madness Survival Guide

March Madness!!! Marvelous, Magnificent, Magnetic, March Madness! Can you guess that I love MM? If you have read Basic Basketball, then you know Basketball is my first love. And every year in March, I am reunited with my first love for 3 uninterrupted weeks full of emotional highs and lows, surprises and disappointments.  It’s a love affair like no other.

However, for those who are unfamiliar with college basketball, March really is madness. What is a seed and what does it have to do with a bracket? Are we gardening or fixing a cabinet? And seriously, what does Cinderella have to do with anything? Well, no matter your interest level in college basketball, everyone can enjoy a little bit of March Madness! And here is your Survival Guide!

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March Madness 101

March Madness refers to the time period surrounding the single-elimination NCAA college basketball tournament (Men’s and Women’s) that begins in March at the conclusion of the regular season and conference tournaments. Currently, 68 teams make the NCAA Men’s Tournament and 64 teams make the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Then 3 weeks of single-elimination games take place until a new National Champion takes down the net.

The conference tournaments are an important part of March Madness because those games often dictate which teams make the NCAA tournament. How are the teams chosen for the tournament? Glad you asked!

32 teams gain automatic entry for winning the conference championships. The remaining teams are selected  by the Selection Committee. The decisions of the Selection Committee for at-large bids and seeding are released to the public on Selection Sunday (Women’s bracket is released on Monday). This year Selection Sunday is March 16.

The tournament begins with First Round (which used to be play-in games when the field was only 64 teams) on March March 18 and progresses through Second Round, Third Round, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and finally the National Championship Game on April 7.

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March Madness Terminology

The Dance Also referred to as “The Big Dance” is the affectionate name for the NCAA Tournament.  (See I told you it’s a love affair!) If a team is “going dancing” it means the team has received one of the 68 invitations to the play in the NCAA Tournament.

Seed When the bracket is released on Selection Sunday, each team is given a seed. The seed is their ranking in the tournament. A #1 Seed is the highest ranking team and a #16 Seed is the lowest ranking. The NCAA Tournament Bracket is broken up into 4 regions, and each region has a 1-16 seed. Therefore, there are 4 Number 1 Seed teams in the tournament, 4 Number 2 Seed, etc. I will explain the importance of seeding below in Bracketology 101.

Cinderella A team that achieves greater success in the tournament than predicted is often referred to as a Cinderella. Just like Cinderella made the most of her opportunity at the ball, a lower seeded team that wins more games at The Dance than expected is also a Cinderella. These Cinderella stories are the most captivating of the tournament.

Bracket Buster A braket buster is a low-seeded team that upsets a highly ranked team in the tournament. The highly ranked teams are expected to make it very far into the tournament, and your bracket usually depends on their success. However, when a low-seeded team knocks off a highly-ranked team unexpectedly, your bracket gets busted. 

Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four These are nicknames for the different levels of the tournament. Sweet 16= 16 teams left, Elite Eight = 8 teams left, Final Four = 4 teams left. The 2 winners from the Final Four Games compete against each other for the National Championship Title.

Taking Down the Net It is customary for the winner of the National Championship to cut down the basketball net at the conclusion of the game. Pay attention to all the March Madness this year to see who will “take down the net” on April 7.

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March Madness Brackets

First let me say, EVERYONE should fill out a March Madness Bracket!

Reason #1 Everyone else does it. I know, if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you too? But this is harmless fun! It’s a great way to keep updated on the latest tournament action, and it’s a great conversation starter.

Reason #2 Warren Buffet is giving $1 Billion dollars for a perfect bracket.  The odds of actually filling out a perfect bracket are something like 1 in 128 billion, but its worth a shot right?

Reason #3 It’s up to you whether filling out the bracket is easy or hard.

My sister picks her brackets based on team colors and mascots. Last year, she won her office bracket challenge. Did I mention she is the only female in her office? So even if you don’t know much about college basketball, it’s easy to randomly select who will win each game.

Now, if you want to consider some strategy in choosing your teams, the possibilities are endless.  Consider a team’s (average margin of victory) x (Conference RPI) when making your selection. (Seriously, that was the first thing that came up when I googled bracket strategy).

If you are looking for easier strategy: See who is “hot” going into the tournament. Who is on a winning streak. Who lost in their conference tournament and has something left to prove? And pick a Cinderella to make it through the first 3 rounds.

Bracketology 101

The brackets are divided into 4 regions: West, Midwest, South, and East.  As I mentioned above, each region has teams seeded 1-16. The benefit of having a high seed is that in the first round of the tournament the highest seeded teams play the lowest seeded teams. For example, during the First Round  1 seed plays 16 seed, 2 seed plays 15 seed, 3 seed plays 14 seed..etc, etc.  The highest seeded teams are expected to win these early games. So, you can see what a “bracket buster” it would be to have a lower seed team defeat a higher seed team early in the tournament. 

The teams in each region are competing their way into the Final Four. The Final Four is comprised of 1 team from each region. (Hint: The Final Four is the final 4 teams, not the final 4 games.)  The 2 winning teams of the Final Four compete against each other in the National Championship Game.

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