March Madness for Beginners

Come the middle of March, some people start contemplating green beer. Some start getting a little crazy – or, well, mad. It’s not that they’ve had too much St. Patrick’s Day beer, but that they’re succumbing to March Madness.

March Madness Tournament

So, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, runs a tournament for college basketball every – you guessed it – March. The tournament actually starts mid-March and runs for a month.  While there are tournaments for three divisions of men’s basketball as well as women’s basketball, Division I men’s basketball tends to be the most prominent.

The tournament starts with 68 Division I men’s teams. There’s a whole system to how they’re selected, involving season records, Selection Committees and even a few cloaks and daggers – well, cloaks anyway. Ultimately, though, these 68 teams get announced on Selection Sunday. This year they’ll be announced the day before St. Patty’s Day (that’s THIS Sunday), so the two celebrations will really go hand-in-hand.

The Tournament

This is not big-money business – not for the players anyway.  Being college students, they are technically playing just for the sport of it, or for scholarships. In reality, though, they’re playing for bragging rights. Whoever wins all of their tournament games is crowned as the champions of college basketball. (Ok, they’re not really crowned, but… maybe they should be.)

By the way, you read that right – they have to win every single one of their games. The March Madness is strictly single-elimination.

Now, during the tournament, you’re going to hear all kinds of fancy terms like “Sweet 16,” “Elite Eight” and “Final Four.” These are not 80s movies –they refer to specific rounds of the tournament.

So, using statistics, cloaks and daggers, the basketball teams get “podded” and “seeded.” Seeds are the placement of a team in one of four geographical regions. Their pods are the method of grouping seeds at certain sites. As to why they’re called “pods” and “seeds,” well… let’s just say March Madness is very popular in America’s Breadbasket.

There’s a First Four initial round that’s kind of like a Wild Card determination. After that, the basketball teams just start playing their games. The number of teams still in the running gets cut in half after each round. Rounds don’t get cutesy with names until after the second when — mathematicians are you ready? – There are just 16 teams left. Now the cutesy names probably make sense.

The final round, by the way, isn’t called Dynamic Duo or anything like that. It has to be content with the prestigious title “National Championship.”

Tournament Pool

People don’t talk about March Madness just because it’s fun. Heck, some people get caught up in the excitement of the tournament even if they don’t like basketball. One reason so many people get wound up is you can bet on the March Madness Tournament.

Ok, technically you can bet on anything, including which cockroach is going to get to the ceiling first. (Or was that just my Moroccan hotel room?) However, this tournament has such a systemized method of betting on the games that it has its own science associated with it – bracketology.

I’m not going to lie – I think bracketology may be a pseudo-science. But then, who cares, because when was the last time high school Biology helped you win your office pool?

Basically, if you want to participate in the tournament pool, you have to fill out a bracket starting with all 64 teams and predict the winners of each round, ultimately picking the winner. You do this all before a single game is played.

There are all kinds of stats and tips for how to choose your teams. For instance, a number-16 has never beaten a number-one seed. A number-one seed has only ever failed to make it to the Final Four, like, three times – usually when lightning struck in Oklahoma. (I made that last part up.) However, if you’re really into it, you can probably spend some time looking at the teams’ records, their strengths, weaknesses, injuries…

Personally, I just usually choose the team with the coolest uniforms or the greatest characters and manipulate my bracket backwards so that they win. Needless to say, I have never won the office pool, but I’m pretty sure I have way more fun in choosing than anyone else.

And to up the ante this year, check out our post on Warren Buffet’s offer for the perfect bracket.  I mean you have to get every single game correct, but the pay off is INSANE.  Good luck and no matter what it’s fun to root for your alma mater, the underdog or the favorite.  Point is, just participate and you’re guaranteed to have some fun.

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