Understanding March Madness: A Collegiette’s Guide to the NCAA Tournament


You’ve either heard about it from your Dad, your brother, your boyfriend, or one of your close friends -- March Madness. It’s the one time of year where everything else gets put to the side, and instead of learning about history or biology, your guy is studying bracket-ology. It’s that time when instead of using his monthly check from his parents for food, date nights with you, or simple essentials, he’s using it to enter in as many bracket pools as possible. Forget about spending a night on the town because from the second week of March through the first week of April, your man’s butt will be glued to the couch and his eyes to the TV.

Your man may not even spend time giving you the details of the tournament… He may be thinking you won’t understand or you aren’t interested. Well, I’m giving you the chance to prove him wrong. Here’s a quick guide to understanding everything you need to know about March Madness, so you don’t have to fight for control over the TV set with your boyfriend.

Before the Tournament 
Although March Madness typically refers to men’s college basketball, March Madness is the nickname given to the NCAA Basketball tournament that determines the champions (both men’s and women’s teams) of college basketball. This tournament consists of 68 teams all fighting for the title. The NCAA is comprised of 1,300 colleges and universities. A selection committee made up of university athletic directors and conference commissioners picks the teams for the tournament, and 31 teams receive an automatic invitation to the tournament for winning their conferences. The selection committee chooses the remaining 37 teams.

The field of teams is divided into four geographical areas. Each region has 16 to 18 teams, each seeded No. 1 through No. 18. The “first four” are the four worst teams in the tournament. They play each other in a qualifying round to earn a spot in the top 64.

… And the Madness Begins! 
During the first two days of the tournament, all of 64 teams play leaving 32 winners to continue on the journey to become the National Champion. Over the following two days, the field is narrowed down to 16 teams called the Sweet 16. After a four- day break, the top 16 is cut down to the Elite 8, which is then trimmed down to the four remaining teams – The Final Four.

During the third week of the tournament, the Final Four plays for college basketball’s ultimate prize. Two games are played, and the winners each advance to the final round of the tournament. Teams that have made it into the Final Four have won four games already and only need to win two more to be crowned NCAA champs.

Odds are, your man has filled out a bracket. Using the bracket, your guy predicts the winner of each game and essentially the winner of the National Championship. When entering a pool where money is involved, often times the winner with the best bracket takes the entire pot. Whenever sports, competition, and money are involved, you know a guy is going to get sucked in.

Now that you’re an expert on all things March Madness, it’s time to get ready to predict the winner of the Final Four. Now that Florida is out, who will it be? Will it be No. 1 seed, Louisville? Or could it be Michigan, who took down the Gators? Syracuse could have a shot at winning it all. Or maybe Wichita State, the lowest seed in the Final Four, will prove why they made it so far. Who knows, maybe you can even prove your man wrong. After all, it’s all for the love of the bracket, right?