March Madness (sort of) Explained

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March Madness, or “March” as us non-basketball fanatics call it, is upon us. As the tournament begins, you feel some kind of obligation to sit in front of the TV with your friends who care enough to make brackets but not actually go to the game. While you’d literally rather be doing anything else, you put on your designated MSU game day jersey, grab a shitty beer from the designated beer mini-fridge and cheer for the boys in green and white.

So basically, there are 68 teams but only 64 play play in the tournament (picture a bracket, 32 teams on each side). “Okay cool, but wait? How do they decide what four teams don’t get to play, that seem unfair!” You’re (kinda) right! This is where the “First Four” come in. Before the tournament begins, 8 teams play and the winners are the “First Four” or the ones that will get to stay in the tournament. These teams are usually really bad, and don’t have automatic bids form their conference season to make it that far into the tournament. These bad teams basically battle it out for their spots, and the winner gets gloating rights until the next game when they will probably lose; imagine the Hunger Games, but on a basketball court.

While watching the tournament it’s also probably a good idea to understand the tournament seeds. Seeds refer to how good a team is, which depends on how well the team did during their conference season. The best team is seeded at 1 while the worst team gets a big fat 16. In the first round of games, low seeds get paired with high seeds, so unless there is a major upset, the games are pretty safe and predictable.

This is the basic pattern to the tournament, bad teams playing good teams, bad teams losing, good teams going on to play good teams. It starts to get really dicey when only the Sweet 16 are left, and then the Elite 8, until the Final Four. Luckily, we happen to go to a school that has one of the best basketball teams in the NCAA (or so I’ve heard), so if you find yourself in a conversation about basketball with no escape in sights, smile, nod, and mentioning something about how much UofM sucks—that is always a safe bet.


Jessica Kukla is a senior studying professional writing and minoring in documentary production. Outside of class you’ll find her listening to podcasts, and tweeting at celebrities like they’re friends. You can follow her on Twitter at @jesskuks.

Tags: Basketball, college, March Madness, MSU, NCAA, spartans, sports, teams, winning