March Madness for Dummies

It’s March and most likely you have heard people talking about “March Madness.” Many know that it dominates the sports headlines, but many others wonder: What is March Madness?

On a basic level, it’s the playoffs for Division I men’s college basketball. Out of over 300 teams, only the top 68 make the tournament. Thirty-two of these teams automatically make the tournament because they have won their conference championships. However, a committee selects the 36 other teams and chooses the seeds for all 68 teams on Selection Sunday.

This year, Selection Sunday is March 17, televised on CBS at 6 p.m. After Selection Sunday, people can go to an app or website like ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports and more to start making brackets for March Madness.

The tournament kicks off with four games known as the First Four—but the real madness begins with the round of 64. The action-packed first round starts the Thursday following Selection Sunday and finishes Friday night. The 64 teams are split into four regions, each with 16 teams; every team gets a “seed,” a ranking of 1 through 16 within their region. The 1-seed plays the 16-seed, the 2-seed plays the 15-seed and so on. The winner of each of these games moves on to the round of 32. After the round of 32 is the Sweet Sixteen, then the Elite Eight, then the Final Four, and ending with the much anticipated Championship game.

So why tune in? March Madness is exciting to watch since every team has a chance to win and make March Madness history. These teams are fighting to continue their season and they leave everything out on the court. Unlike the NBA playoffs, which is the best of seven games, these teams only get one “shot.”

Also, by having the opportunity to make a bracket, the tournament is much more entertaining from a fan’s perspective even if they don’t have a favorite team or know much about college basketball. Below, find a list of strategies to help you pick the perfect March Madness bracket:

1. Don’t be afraid to pick an upset. It’s called March Madness for a reason. On any given day, anything can happen, so take some risks. Last year, many brackets were busted immediately when 1-seed Virginia lost to 16-seed UMBC and very few could have predicted that 11-seed Loyola University Chicago would make it all the way to the Final Four.

2. Be realistic. Although upsets do occur, don’t pick an upset in every game. Consider the 5-seed vs 12-seed and 6-seed vs 11-seed games when choosing an upset.

3. Be careful judging a team based off of their record. Although records can be a useful statistic, keep in mind that these teams are playing in different conferences. A team may have only lost once or went undefeated, but they played easier competition.

4. Have fun! Watch the games, scream at the referees, go crazy over the buzzer-beaters and watch your bracket fall apart after the first day of play. That’s what the “madness” is all about!