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March Madness: What You Need To Know to Build Your Bracket

What is this March Madness all about?

March Madness is officially on the way, and when it comes to being a student on a college campus, it is essential to know the basics of the most exciting month for college basketball. March madness is extremely exciting in the sense it can be any team’s game. Year after year, it brings its own set of upsets, underdogs and the unpredictability and that is what keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Whether you are an avid sports fan, or someone who only recently wants a slice of the action, here’s everything you need to know to participate in the fan frenzy known as March Madness. 

NBC Sports

March Madness is essentially a series of single-elimination games, meaning a single loss puts your team out of the tournament. With a grand total of 68 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams that participate, it only takes six wins in a row to claim the title of National Champion. This single-elimination style of these games is what provides the crazy atmosphere and high-stakes for fans.

Not every school is invited, or qualifies, for the tournament, so it is an honor to be apart of the tournament in the first place. The teams that are invited to compete are televised on Selection Sunday after they have been carefully considered by the selection committee. The committee takes into account the team’s record, ranking in national polls, conference record, regular season record and success in post-season conference tournaments, and they provide automatic invites for the top 32 teams. The rest of the invites are decided by the committee, and results in heavy debate from fans and commentators. 


Let’s talk seeds…

The seed each team gets is what is key to getting some guidance on a team’s chance at winning individual matches and the tournament itself. Each team, within the four regions, has a numerical ranking from 1 up to 18 teams which is called the seed. Traditionally the closer the seed is to number one, the ‘better’ the team is perceived, and their chances of winning are higher, but that is not always the case. Lower seed numbers (number 9 to number 16) are not out of the game, and their wins are sometimes considered more exciting for the overall thrill of the tournament! These teams represent potential Cinderella teams, or teams that get unexpected wins usually before the Final Four round of the tournament. The seed numbers are also determined  by the same committee that determines who qualifies for the tournament. 

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

The bracket breakdown…

The tournament is comprised of five main rounds. The first round starts with all 64 teams playing, and results in 32 winning teams that advance to the next round. Following that, the 32 teams are condensed to 16 and represent “The Sweet Sixteen”. “The Elite Eight” follows as those 16 survivors are knocked down to 8, and if you are following the pattern, the remaining 8 are compiled to 4 creating “The Final Four”. The Final Four then proceed to battle it out in the first week of April for the coveted title of National Champions.

Throughout this process, fans try their best to guess the outcomes of each of the games and keep track with brackets. Fans base their brackets on all sorts of information, and because of the randomness of the tournament there really are no right or wrong answers. Some fans base their predictions solely on seed numbers, and others may cheer for the cinderellas and the upsets. I even know people that have based their predictions on which mascots could beat the other one in a fight. Although March Madness may be intimidating to non-sports fans, it provides the perfect environment for people of all kinds of sports backgrounds to come together and root for their team. Especially being on a college campus with a participating team, this tournament is a fun way to cheer on your team no matter their ranking or record and show your school spirit. 


Ally Greene

U Iowa '22

Communication and Enterprise Leadership Major at the University of Iowa
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