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The History of March Madness

The History of March Madness

By DIYStudentPublished about a year ago 3 min read
The History of March Madness
Photo by Ash from Modern Afflatus on Unsplash

March Madness is one of the most exciting times in sports, capturing the attention of millions of basketball fans across the United States. Every year, 68 college basketball teams compete for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, known as March Madness. The tournament has a rich history dating back to the early 20th century and has grown into one of the most popular sporting events in the world.

The first NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament took place in 1939, with just eight teams competing. The tournament was the brainchild of Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen, who wanted to create a national championship for college basketball. The University of Oregon won the first tournament, defeating Ohio State in the championship game.

In the early years of the tournament, there was little fanfare and few people outside of the participating schools paid much attention. However, as the tournament grew in size and popularity, it became a cultural phenomenon. By the 1960s, the tournament had expanded to 25 teams; in 1975 it expanded to 32.

In 1985, the tournament underwent a major change that would forever alter the landscape of college basketball. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee introduced the concept of "at-large" bids, which allowed teams that didn't win their conference tournament to still qualify for the NCAA Tournament. This change greatly expanded the field of teams and allowed for greater diversity in the tournament.

The tournament's popularity continued to grow throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with a record-breaking 73.7 million viewers tuning in to watch the 2005 championship game between the University of Illinois and the University of North Carolina. The tournament's popularity has only continued to grow in recent years, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch the games on TV and online.

One of the reasons for the tournament's popularity is its unpredictability. With 68 teams competing, there's always the potential for upsets and Cinderella stories. In 1983, the North Carolina State Wolfpack won the tournament as a #6 seed, defeating the heavily favored Houston Cougars in the championship game. In 2013, the #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast University made a stunning run to the Sweet 16, becoming the first #15 seed to ever do so.

The tournament's format has also evolved over the years. In 2011, the tournament expanded to 68 teams, with four "play-in" games occurring before the main tournament began. These play-in games feature the four lowest-ranked automatic qualifiers and the four lowest-ranked at-large teams, giving them a chance to compete for a spot in the main tournament.

One of the most iconic aspects of March Madness is the bracket. Each year, fans around the country fill out their brackets, predicting the outcomes of every game in the tournament. The bracket has become a cultural phenomenon, with millions of people participating in bracket challenges and office pools. In fact, some estimates suggest that the tournament costs American businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity due to employees filling out brackets and watching the games during work hours.

March Madness has also had a significant impact on the sport of college basketball. The tournament has helped to popularize college basketball and has given exposure to smaller schools that may not have otherwise received it. The tournament has also helped to launch the careers of many future NBA stars, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.

In recent years, the tournament has faced some controversy. Critics have argued that the NCAA profits greatly from the tournament, while the athletes themselves receive little compensation. Others have criticized the tournament's "one-and-done" culture, where top players use college basketball as a stepping stone to the NBA, often leaving after just one year.

Despite these criticisms, the tournament remains one of the most exciting and beloved events in sports. Each year, millions of fans tune in to watch the drama unfold, rooting for their favorite teams and players. March Madness has captured the imagination of basketball fans for decades, and will likely continue to do so for many years to come.

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    DIYStudentWritten by DIYStudent

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