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NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament

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NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament

The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, more commonly known as NCAA March Madness is a collegiate men’s basketball tournament played every spring in the United States among teams in Division I (the top level of college sports). Founded in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, 68 college-level basketball teams compete to determine who gets to be crowned champion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Initially, when founded in 1939, and up until 1950 the tournament had just 8 teams. By 1952, the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball tournament had doubled in size to include 16 teams. During the 1960s, 1970s, and the start of the 1980's it continued to grow at a steady rate, further expanding to 48 teams by the end of the 1982 season. By 1985, a further 16 teams had been added, such that the 64-team format many current fans are familiar with had been reached, and it stayed at that size until 2011 when the field further expanded to the new number of 68 teams.

This tournament has become a huge sporting phenomenon across the United States, with the bracket being a massive source of betting for both serious basketball fans and casual observers alike. A women’s tournament, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, was created in 1982, and there is a NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament (founded in 1957) as well as a NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament (founded in 1975). All three of these competitions have 64 teams participating as opposed to the 68 for the Division I tournament.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament’s 68 teams are broken down as follows: 32 are given an automatic berth after winning their respective conferences, while the other 36 are given “at-large” spots. These places are determined on a variety of factors, including seasonal performance and how strong one’s conference is – thus teams from a stronger division are more likely to be given a spot at the tournament even if they did not do as well during the regular season.

Once the 68 teams are selected, the final tournament can begin. The teams are then seeded (ranked), allocated into one of four divisions, and the four lowest-ranked teams participate in round one (known as the “first four”) in order to narrow it down to 64 teams – and that is where the real action begins.

The lowest-seeded team (16) is pitted against the highest-ranked team (1) in each region in a single-elimination format, so fans will see number 2 versus number 15, number 3 versus number 14, and so on. Normally, as is to be expected, the highest-ranked teams always progress, but every now and then, there is always a team that manages to upset the odds.

Examples of massive upsets include UMBC’s shocking defeat of the University of Virginia during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. In a match that was viewed and live-streamed by fans nationwide and in many countries around the world, UMBC made history as the first 16th ranked team to beat a number 1 seeded side in men's competition history. That is, of course, not including the impressive feat achieved by Harvard's women's basketball team against Stanford 20 years prior in 1998.

Another was number 2 ranked Georgetown’s round of 64 loss to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in 2013, thus ending the Hoyas’ tournament in humiliation even before it got off the ground. Florida Gulf Coast went on to make it to the Sweet Sixteen before eventually being eliminated, but it was still a very impressive run by a team that no one expected to even get past the first round.

Lower-seeded teams making deep runs are not common, but it has happened before, such that they have earned a special moniker: “Cinderella Teams”.

The later rounds also have unique nicknames. The last 16 are known by fans as the “Sweet Sixteen”, the final eight, “The Elite Eight”, and the last quartet standing, “The Final Four”. The Final Four will feature the champions of each division battling it out for a coveted spot in the tournament final and usually takes place in April. Unlike the other rounds, this event is played at a pre-selected location, and cities bid for the opportunity to host both the Final Four and national championship matches every year. As expected, the coverage of the NCAA Final Four and national championship final matches is huge, whether it be via live streaming, TV, or radio.

UCLA is the most successful side in NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball history, although it has been several decades since they last lifted the title. In recent times, schools like Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, UConn, and UNC-Chapel Hill have established themselves as basketball powerhouses and serious contenders for the coveted prize.

Media Coverage

Although the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament is an amateur (and not professional) competition, it still enjoys massive TV coverage at a national level in the United States, especially when it comes to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and national championship games.

Live streaming and on-demand options are available for fans who want a more on-the-go experience, and there are also radio broadcasts all throughout March Madness for supporters not in front of a TV, computer, or mobile device.

Internationally, such as in Canada and the UK, there are TV broadcasts and live streaming selections on tap for fans throughout the course of the tournament.