March Madness: The madness continues in 2015

John M.

Staff Writer

Every year around late March and early April, millions of Americans interrupt their working lives to follow the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament, otherwise referred to as “March Madness.” The tournament is very popular among Americans, who fill brackets trying to predict the outcome of games.

The NCAA Tournament first began in 1939 as an eight-team playoff to determine the best team in college basketball. The first champion was the University of Oregon Ducks beating the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Since 1939, the tournament has expanded to 32 teams in 1980, 64 teams in 1985, and most recently in 2011, 68 teams, which is the format used by the tournament today. The tournament is divided into seven single-elimination rounds; the first round or first four is when the four teams play for a play-in spot to advance to the next round. The round of 64 is when 64 teams play to determine who goes to the next round. Usually most upsets occur in the round of 64. The round of 32 features the winners from the round of 64, and after that, the winning teams go to the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and finally, the National Championship.

Teams are ranked 1-16 and are divided into four regional divisions, with the division winners playing in the Final Four or the National Championship. Thirty-five teams have won the National Championship, with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) winning the most: eleven championships. Isaac Condrey, WHS sophomore, followed this year’s tournament; he said he enjoys “the thrill of the games, the buzzer beaters and close games, and definitely cheering for my team!” This year’s tournament featured two teams from Georgia: Georgia State University and the University of Georgia. Georgia lost in the round of 64 to Michigan State; however, Georgia State upset Baylor in the round of 64, but Georgia State lost in the round of 32 to Xavier. With the 1-16 numbering, it might be easy on paper to predict the games; however, making accurate predictions is much more difficult than one may think.

Every year before the tournament, millions of basketball fans attempt to fill out a perfect bracket based on popular predictions and personal preferences. Many college basketball experts or “bracketologists” have a better chance to accurately predict the bracket because they will often report on college basketball and have significant knowledge of the teams in the tournament. However, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 9.2 quintillion to one, which is a number followed by 30 zeros. Since the 64-team bracket was started in 1985, no one has filled out a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket, and according to ESPN, no one out of 11.5 million people who filled a bracket in the ESPN Bracket Challenge completed a perfect bracket because all were busted by the end of the round of 32.  These odds do not mean people will not try, and many companies have challenges and offer prizes to anyone who can complete a perfect bracket. Notably in March of 2014, Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, offered one billion dollars to anyone who completed a perfect bracket. However, those who entered failed to produce perfect brackets. Most busted or incorrect brackets are caused by the unpredictability of the tournament because so many teams are in the tournament, and many lower seeds will upset bigger seeds. Condrey made a bracket and his bracket was busted; he explained, “UAB and Georgia State came out of nowhere! I mean they were 14 seeds!” Because of these lower seeds, the tournament has become known for many teams defying the odds and winning over powerhouse teams.

Many upsets occur every year in the tournament. The NCAA ranks teams 1-16 in each region, and this causes some smaller-seeded teams to defeat larger-seeded teams. There has never been a 16-ranked team to defeat a one-ranked team; however, in 2013, 15-ranked Florida Gulf Coast became the first 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16 round of the tournament. Also in 2013, 9-ranked Wichita State became the first nine seed to make it to the Final Four. Many teams from Georgia have upset higher ranked teams in the tournament. In 2014, 14th ranked Mercer beat 3rd ranked Duke in the round of 64, and this year, as mentioned before, Georgia State upset Baylor. However, most upset teams do not get past the round of 32.  In 2014 the National Championship Game was between a 7 seed and an 8 seed between Connecticut and Kentucky; these are the lowest seeds to make the championship game. However, even if it is for one day, an underdog team might just have a chance to make a name for itself in a possible upset.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of America’s most popular sporting events. It is known for great games and memorable upsets, and it continues to inspire people to make brackets to see if they can defy the odds. This year on April 6th the number 1 Duke Blue Devils defeated the number 1 Wisconsin Badgers to win the tournament, concluding the month-long tournament and successfully surviving every team they faced.  The NCAA Tournament is still popular and will continue to entice people to take time from their busy schedules to follow the March Madness.

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