The March Madness Schedule Is Insane

by Claire Elizabeth Felter

You would think the excitement and chaos of a leaked NCAA tournament bracket would be enough for any person to handle. Halfway through CBS's two-hour Selection Sunday televised event, an image of the official bracket found its way on to Twitter with the caption, "Spoiler alert: full bracket," and it turned out to be the real deal. But what's more intense than the drama surrounding the bracket's release is, well, the contents of the bracket itself. This year's March Madness schedule will almost definitely overwhelm you, and that's before finding out how fast it's all going to happen.

The official bracket, which made its way to basketball fans by way of either the TV network or social media on March 13, came just two days before the first teams hit the courts for the "First Four" portion of the tournament and just four days before the official first round is scheduled to get going. And by going, I mean going and gone pretty much all at the same time, because 32 different match-ups involving a total 64 teams will go down across the country in a period of about 36 hours. This schedule is the norm for March Madness, though, with fans annually looking forward to half the first round games on Thursday and the other half on Friday.

And that's just the beginning, literally. Before the victorious teams can get some R&R, it's right back onto the basketball court. For any team that wins in a Thursday first round game, the second round match-up is scheduled for Saturday, March 19. And for any team that moves on after a Friday game, the second round game is set for Sunday, March 20.

To clear up any confusion, that's taking the pool of teams from 64 down to 16 in just four days. And with sets of four games airing on different channels simultaneously in that first round, you will most definitely not have time for bathroom breaks. (Read: You'll have to make time, since that's kind of a necessity.)

The remaining teams will then get a quick breather before the Sweet Sixteen round kicks off with four games on March 24 (the other half will happen — wait for it — the following day). And the Elite Eight teams will go at it on March 26 and 27.

Tournament organizers must have realized that running through the entire tournament in the last two weeks of March would have made for a little too much madness, because the Final Four games and the championship game are scheduled for the first week of April. The mayhem, however, is real, and fans should prepare for the whirlwind that begins Tuesday.