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Simpson Street Free Press

March Madness Is the Ultimate NCAA Basketball Showdown

March Madness is one of the most anticipated and most-watched sporting events there is. It is a high-stakes environment with a roaring atmosphere that keeps family, friends, and basketball fans on the edge of their seats.

For the uninitiated, March Madness is a college basketball tournament. It is sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and determines the national champion of college basketball.

The name “March Madness” comes from the annual Illinois High School tournament, the first that used the term “March Madness” to describe its annual championship event. Henry V. Porter, a coach and educator, established the phrase in a 1939 essay for the Illinois Interscholastic magazine. His article was called “March Madness”.

The nickname March Madness was not used to describe the NCAA tournament until 1982, when Brent Musburger, a CBS commentator, used the nickname during the broadcast of a tournament game. Ever since college basketball fans and the media have embraced the nickname.

The NCAA has several divisions and schools are arranged in Division I, Division II, or Division III. Some teams from smaller schools compete in alternative divisions, such as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

NCAA Member schools are divided into divisions depending on their athletic budgets, school size, and overall competitiveness. Each division has its own set of rules. For example, Division I schools must sponsor at least seven sports for men and women. This division gets most of the exposure and publicity. Division II and Division III schools are required to sponsor at least five sports for men and women.

Somewhat surprisingly, D3 is the largest division in the NCAA with about 438 schools. Seasons for D3 schools are shorter than D1 and D2 schools. They give student-athletes more time for their academics.

Tournament teams are picked by a selection committee, which has 10 representatives, all from member schools. During the picking process, the selection committee is isolated in a hotel to make their picks. Each member is required to submit a list of teams that should be in the tournament. Teams are selected into the tournament based on ranking in NCAA polls, conference record, road record, wins versus their ranked opponents, and their overall record.

The teams that are not selected for the tournament are invited to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The Men’s NIT invites 32 NCAA teams for the postseason play and the Women’s NIT invites 64 NCAA teams. In 1985, the March Madness tournament included 64 teams. In 2011, the number of teams selected expanded to 68, which is where it stands today.

March Madness can sometimes sound like a conversation about water plants and gardening, it has pods and seeds. Pods are the grouping area where a team plays its early-round games in the first or second round. Seeds are the placement in which a team stands in one of four regions.

Each region has 16 or 18 teams. The region's best team is given the number one seed, but the lower seeds such as the nines through 16’s, are often the miracle teams of the tournament. Because results are so unpredictable, March Madness is an apt description and the reason many people watch.

The tournament starts with the “First Four” when four of the lowest-seeded teams compete for a spot in the top 64, which is when the actual tournament begins.

Once the top 64 teams have played, the field is reduced to the top 32 teams. After the teams of 32 are cut down, the teams trimmed down to 16 also known as the Sweet 16. The final 16 teams take a four-day break and resume business as usual. We go from 16 teams to eight teams which is known as the Elite 8. And then down to the Final Four teams left standing. Once the Final Four is done, the winner of the tournament is decided.

The March Madness tournament usually wraps up with the Final Four teams battling it out. The team that lives up to the expectations emerges victorious and will be crowned champions of the NCAA basketball tournament. It is truly a nail-biting and thrilling experience.

[Sources: NCAA.org; ESPN; Associated Press]

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