March Madness: Explained

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Each year, 68 college basketball teams from four conferences compete for the chance to be crowned national champions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I tournament. Since 1939, March Madness has been one of the most anticipated and watched events in all of sports, with an average audience of 11 million.  

Out of the 68 teams, 32 are “automatic bids” meaning they won their respective conference’s tournament and automatically qualified. In the NCAA, there are 10 conferences and 133 colleges that participate. The remaining 36 teams are chosen on Selection Sunday. 

On Selection Sunday, the NCAA reveals the final bracket, which includes the rankings and what teams will play one another. The Selection Committee — made up of school administrators nominated by their conference — is responsible for selecting the 36 teams.  

In the opening round of the tournament, known as the First Four, the eight lowest-ranked teams will compete and four will be eliminated. From those remaining 64 teams, the tournament is split into four sections, with 16 teams in each. Within the regions, the teams are assigned a rank from one to 16 and will play each other based on this with the highest team playing the lowest. For example, No. 1 plays No. 16 and No. 2 plays No. 15, etc.  

From here, the tournament is relatively easy to follow. In the second round (Round of 32), 32 teams will face off and the winners will move on. The next rounds are as follows: the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 and the Final Four. The final championship game will be held March 30 in Las Vegas. 

March Madness officially kicks off Tuesday, March 14 at 6:40 p.m. with No. 16 from the West, Southeast Missouri State taking on No. 16 from the Midwest, Texas A&M. Although this game is only available with the truTV app, the first nationally televised game will be March 16 at noon on CBS when No. 9 West Virginia will face No. 8 Maryland. 

The NACC released their official rankings Sunday, March 12. Oftentimes, viewers will create their own bracket, writing in who they believe will win each stage of the competition to see how close they can get to the real results. (Graphic/National Collegiate Athletic Association)

If you wish to create your own bracket, download the template below.

Irene, now a senior at American Heritage, returns to staff as the Online-Editor-in-Chief for her third and final year with the Patriot Post. She loves all things literature and spends most of her time with her nose in a book. Her passion for writing started early, and she is currently the co-president of the Quill and Scroll Society. When she is not studying or writing articles for the wonderful iPatriotPost, she enjoys volunteering and helping lead a multitude of clubs at Heritage. Since 2014, she has worked alongside Best Buddies, an organization that advocates for inclusivity for those with intellectual and physical disabilities. As a co-founder and current board member of the South Florida Best Buddies Student Advisory Board, she plans fundraisers and service projects, including the annual Friendship Walk, which raised almost $300,000. She looks forward to making this year special and as amazing as possible.