March is Madness: The College Girl's Basketball Recap

 

Image via ESPN

 

You’ve definitely seen that guy in class watching basketball on his phone hidden behind a textbook during class. Maybe your dad called you the other day saying “My bracket was ruined because of that upset!” You might have heard someone mention that “It’s amazing a 16-seed made it into the second round by beating a 1-seed!” I’m here to clarify all the "Madness" that sweeps the nation during the month of March in an easy and understandable way.

 

Image via PYBrackets

 

The Mad Basics

March Madness is a collegiate basketball tournament where hundreds of teams across the country compete for a chance to make it into the infamous bracket. Only 64 teams can compete in the first round, so it’s one of the most competitive tournaments in collegiate sports.

The tournament is created using a bracket. A bracket is a chart that shows which teams play against each other. Each team competes in their division in sudden death elimination rounds: if you win you go to the next game, but if you lose you’re out. The first round of games encompasses all 64 teams but the important rounds are named based upon the number of teams still alive: the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and the Championship game.

The bracket also ranks each team with a seed. The teams are divided by location into 4 groups: South, East, West, and Midwest (weird right but, hey, I didn’t make the rules). Within these groups, each team is given a number from 1-16 which tells us how good they are predicted to do with #1 being the best and #16 predicted as the worst.

So why is this tournament so infamous in the sports world if you already know who’s going to win based upon the seed rankings? That’s where upsets come in. An upset is when a team of lower ranking beats a team with a higher ranking. This year has been a historic year of upsets because for the first time in male collegiate basketball, a 16-seed team has beaten a No. 1-seed team.

Fun Fact: 20 years ago, the female basketball team Harvard was a 16 seed that beat Stanford a 1 seed the first upset of its kind in collegiate basketball. It’s good to see progress in the men’s league!  

 

Photo via ESPN

 

The Mad Brackets

March Madness can be a lot of fun for even the part-time collegiate basketball fans as you make your own bracket and compete with your friends. Before the tournament starts, you’re given the 64 teams and either through research or pure guessing, you pick the teams that make it into the next rounds, ultimately predicting the championship winner.

Ever heard of Warren Buffett? He offered a MILLION-DOLLARS-A-YEAR-FOR-LIFE to anyone who could produce a perfect bracket—in other words, someone had to predict every game’s winner correctly to win the prize money. If you think about this in terms of mathematical statistics alone, this feat is virtually impossible. Why? No one can predict the human spirit. Each of these teams fight every game to stay alive in this tournament, which is why each game has extremely close scores and upsets are expected.

Something I love about the bracket is that even if your collegiate team didn’t make the tournament, by making the bracket, you are encouraged to root for the teams you picked. Also, unlike Fantasy Football where you dedicate time to researching players and maintaining your team every week, this is a one-and-done guessing game. No matter how much you research, there is no guarantee that your picks will be close to the actual outcome.  I made my bracket by circling one of two teams before I made it to the final game—absolutely no brainwork involved— but now I’m a part of a phenomenon that so many people take part in across the US.

 

Photo via USA Today

Why does March Madness sweep the nation?

It has been stated that March Madness decreases the productivity of the average worker because they devote their time to watching the games when they should be working. It’s also been said that if an office group makes a bracket bet, it strengthens the comradery between all participants. Everyone’s bracket will eventually be busted (due to an upset, your bracket did not properly predict the winners) so why do people still care about this basketball tournament?

With my best Yoda impression, I’ll answer that question with another question: What greater story is there in sports than the one about the underdog, the weakling, the one who has the world against him, triumphing victoriously against the obvious champ, the titan that was to be feared, the one that seemingly had no weaknesses? Sports become a stage for the strengths and weaknesses of humanity to be on display to a wide audience. We watch these games to see the players who don’t crack under pressure and those who are crushed under its weight. Sure, you might think it’s just a game of running up and down a court trying to throw a ball into a hoop. But when you really think about the passion that these players freely give to the sport they love, it’s not about the sport anymore. It’s about the dedication, the work, the adversity that every player faces. If we put as much dedication into the things we are passionate about as these athletes, where might our own lives be?

If you look closer, sports are a reflection of the human condition through a lens that most people can relate to even if they don’t participate or understand the sport. We all want something desperately, something we are willing to give up everything for and we hope against hope that we will win. However, in this tournament, there’s only one winner out of hundreds of teams.

At the end of the day, we all have stories of our greatest wins and losses. Sports remind us that we can always have hope that the number 16 seed can beat the number 1 seed— it’s happened before meaning there’s always a chance it can happen again.

Don’t miss the championship game on April 2nd being played in San Antonio!

 

Cover by ESPN