Every year a wonderful kind of madness descends on sports fans across America. They spend hours filling out brackets and rooting for teams they've never heard of. The NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament is one of the world's great sporting events and the best part is, you don't have to be a sports fanatic to catch the fever. If you love heart-stopping drama and rooting for the underdog, you're gonna love the March tournament.
Before the Madness
68 college teams compete in a three week single-elimination tournament. 31 teams qualify by winning their conference and the rest of the berths are awarded by a selection committee. Each year, Selection Sunday finds teams on the bubble (they might be in, they might be out) gathered around their TV sets sweating it out, waiting for their names to be called - their invite to the Big Dance.
Once the field is set, the teams are broken into four regional groups (East, West, Midwest and South) of 16 teams each. Each region has a mini tournament that decides who moves on to the semi-finals. Each group of 16 teams are seeded with the best team (1) playing the worst team (16). So, a 2 seed plays a 15 seed, a 3 seed plays a 14 seed and so on.
Let the Madness Begin!
Over the course of just three weeks, an amazing 65 games are played. The tension starts high and builds with each passing round. Here's a breakdown of the tournament round by round.
- Play-in Games: The opening round games see the bottom 4 teams (64-68) fight it out for the last tickets to the dance.
- First Round: Now, the dance really begins. All 64 teams play in a hoops smorgasbord.
- Second Round: The remaining 32 teams duke it out in another round of games.
- Sweet Sixteen: Only 16 teams are still alive: The Sweet Sixteen. They play another round of games.
- Elite Eight: The eight teams left (the Elite Eight) play yet again to see who will win each region.
- Final Four: The last four teams that have survived the tournament move on to the semi-finals also known as the Final Four.
- The Championship Game: This one's for the whole enchilada. The last two surviving teams meet in the championship game to determine the NCAA Champ.
Bracketology is the science (or art) of filling out your bracket (a grid of the tournament) by picking the winners of every game. You can download your own bracket from any major (or even minor) sports website including Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, and CBS Sports, or you can use an online system to join a pool.
You fill out your bracket by selecting the winner of each match-up. You choose who you think will win in the first round of games, then the second and so on, until you've chosen winners all the way through the tournament including the championship game.
You can join the fray online (it's usually free) or you can have your own pool with friends or co-workers. It's a fun way to have someone to root for in every game.
Four reasons you should join the madness
- Rooting for the underdog is one of the great American pastimes. We love a dark horse and each year there's at least one Cinderella team that finds a way to win against all the odds. Who doesn't love seeing David kick Goliath's booty?
- It's fun to make your picks and live and die each day as the results come in. You don't have to know anything about the teams either. Pick by team colors if you want, just pick!
- Oh, the drama! There's nothing like a live, college sporting event for drama. There's more passion, heartache and joy than a year's worth of soap operas.
- Watching someone's dream come true is truly a moving experience. This puts the reality back in reality TV. Every single one of the kids competing in this tournament dreams of one day being the NCAA Champ. The dream will actually come true for one group of kids. It's a beautiful thing.