Definition of March Madness - Explanation of March Madness
by Trevor Whenham - 03/19/2008
Everywhere you turn these days the only thing every sports fan is talking about is March Madness. All of those sports fans know what is going on, but for some people what is missing in all the talk is a definition of March Madness. If the whole crazy phenomenon is new to you then an explanation of March Madness would probably be much appreciated. For those people, then, here is a crash course - the quintessential look at a definition of March Madness.
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Any explanation of March Madness has to start with just one thing - it is the most perfect sporting event in existence. Sixty-five different teams line up with a shot to win it all. It's not just the best 65 teams from among the more than 300 teams that play Division I basketball, though. Teams are split into 31 conferences, and each of those conferences has an automatic bid. Every conference except the Ivy League plays a season-ending conference tournament, and gives the automatic bid to the winner. The Ivy League plays no tournament, so they give their bid to their regular season champion. The other 34 teams are chosen by a selection committee. They are called at-large bids, and they generally go to the 34 most deserving teams. Obviously it is a very difficult job to pick the 34 best teams, and the process is very subjective and can be very controversial.
The two worst teams in the tournament play in a special play-in game on the Tuesday before the tournament. The rest of the field is split into four groups of 16 teams, and those groups are seeded from one to 16. The top team in each group plays the 16th team, the second plays the 15th and so on. The winners of each game goes on to the next round and so on until only one team is standing. A team is knocked out of the tournament and has to go home as soon as they lose once, so the pressure is incredibly intense. The tournament takes place over three weekends starting soon after the middle of March. It is also known as the NCAA Tournament, sometimes just The Tournament, or also the Final Four, which is the name given to he last four teams left in the tournament. It is very prestigious for a team to make it to the Final Four.
Perhaps the biggest key to the tremendous popularity of the tournament is the bracket. The March Madness bracket is the grid of all the teams in the tournament and the path they have to follow to the Final Four and the championship game. Filling out a bracket with the winners of each of the 63 games in the tournament is an incredibly difficult task, but it is very fun to try to do, and it creates endless debates and competition. Every year there are more and more places for you to fill out a bracket online to compete against everyone else out there. It's a great competition because the person who knows the most doesn't necessarily have an edge on winning the tournament because upsets are so common and the results are so unpredictable. Virtually every office, school or other workplace has some sort of pool where people fill out a bracket and throw in a few bucks at a chance to win the big pot.
The popularity of the tournament has turned March madness into big business. The games are all on CBS, and the network pays millions of dollars every year to broadcast the games. That money, along with the tickets sales for all of the games and all of the souvenirs and memorabilia that is sold means that the tournament is a huge financial windfall for teams that participate. It is also a massive event for the cities that host tournament games because of the fans that pour in to watch, and for Las Vegas, which has sold-out hotels and sportsbooks packed full of fans and bettors.