MARCH MADNESS: An in-depth guide to understanding the NCAA Tournament.

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By Michelle McKernan & Rockila Young

March Madness is an event that many look forward to, but it can seem overwhelming at times, especially if you are not familiar with basketball or the tournament itself. But don’t worry, it’s a lot less scary once it’s explained.

The NCAA Tournament was created in 1939 and has grown from just eight teams to 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the championship title. There are two ways for a team to earn a bid (a ticket so to speak) to enter March Madness.


Automatic qualifiers

The 32 Division 1 conferences all receive an automatic bid to enter the tournament. No matter how the teams did during the regular season, as long as a team is eligible for postseason play and wins its postseason conference tournament, it gets a bid.


At-large bid

This is how the other 36 teams get chosen for the tournament. After the regular season and conference tournaments have been played, a 10-member NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Committee, known as the Selection Committee, comes together and decides what other teams deserve a ticket into the tournament. Using stats and rankings from the regular season and the postseason conference, as well as looking at what impressed the committee, the committee decides which teams will get a bid into the tournament. All of this takes place on Selection Sunday, which is March 17 this year.


What comes next

Once the 68 teams are selected, they are assigned to one of four regions, East, South, West or Midwest. This decides the matchup of the first round. On Selection Sunday, the teams are ranked by the Selection Committee one through 68. These rankings are derived from how the teams played in the normal season and conference tournament performance. Selection Sunday is as it sounds, it’s the day the Selection Committee announces all teams, ranks and brackets. The teams are now broken down into 16 teams in four different regions. After being separated, each team receives a rank between one and 16. This ranking is considered a “seed.” Four teams are eliminated in the first round and that knocks the number down from 68 teams to 64. The four teams that are eliminated within the first round are referred to as the “First Four.”

The first round of matchups is determined by pitting the best-ranked team against the worst-ranked team. For example, the No.1 ranked team would play against the No.16 ranked team and so on. The intention is to give the best teams an easy first matchup. Thirty-two games are played within the first week to determine the “Sweet Sixteen.” After that, the “Elite Eight” are crowned, which leads to the four remaining teams, referred to as the “Final Four.” Teams then compete until there is one team left to claim the championship.

If you want to watch the madness of March Madness you can view the stream online on “March Madness Live” or your choice of station: TBS, TNT, TruTV, CBS or even the Big Ten Network.  


March Madness committee and brackets  

The Selection Committee is in charge of choosing the teams to play in the tournament. It also oversees the seeding and the brackets. The people on the committee serve five-year terms.

As mentioned earlier, the committee is responsible for bracketing. This is how the NCAA includes the viewers in the tournament. Viewers and fans can guess on how they think the tournament is going to go. With over 50 stories about the teams, the NCAA website offers advice for filling out your bracket sheet. It gives information that can potentially help you win. There are stories about past bracket winners, past tournaments and more. Brackets open after Selection Sunday, right after the committee announces the teams or “field” as the NCAA refers to it. Brackets will close that following Thursday, before the first game. This is meant to be a fun way to interact with March Madness,  and it is not a competition you should be scared to participate in.