The month of March has just begun, which, in the sports world, signifies the beginning of March Madness, the NCAA Division I college men’s basketball tournament. The competition features 68 of the best teams this year and culminates in what is known as the Final Four.
The tournament is single-elimination, meaning that if a team loses once, they are eliminated from the tournament. Since the competition is thought of so highly, the anticipation of who will qualify for the tournament and what they will be ranked puts a great deal of significance on the games at the end of the season. One of the main reasons why this time is so exciting is the opportunity to create a bracket and place bets with your friends and family.
Originating in 1939 with only eight teams, the tournament was not always so popular. However, as more teams were added, the prevalence grew exponentially, turning March Madness into one of the most anticipated events in sports. The main reason for this is the opportunity to make brackets and place bets. There is about a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of getting a perfect bracket, but if one does manage to pull it off, there is a prize of one million dollars for them, courtesy of Warren Buffett. 70 million people filled out brackets last year, which is significantly more than the 62.9 million ballots cast for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
Teams earn bids to be in the competition in one of two ways. First, the 32 Division I conferences receive one automatic entry each. Second, bids are given by the selection committee on Selection Sunday. On that same day, before any tournament game is played, teams are ranked one through 68 by the Selection Committee based on their regular season play. The anticipation surrounding March Madness is almost unmatched in sports with both basketball fans and non-fans. Everyone hopes to have fun and, with a bit more than luck, create a perfect bracket.