Why Is It Called March Madness? 11 NCAA Tournament Facts All Fans Need To Know
It's time to nail down the real reason why the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament is called March Madness. The actual origin makes a lot of sense, and it's kind of surprising that I never made the connection to the English idiom from which the nickname is derived before this month. So why is it called March Madness? For starters, the name itself is a colloquialization of an expression which I'm sure you've heard before — Mad as a March hare.
Throughout the 30s, the nickname "March Madness" was used to describe high school basketball tournaments in Indiana and Illinois, and the association with the college game sort of fell into place as the college tournament grew. In 1974, NBC broadcaster Brent Musburger used the expression for the first time on television, and the rest is history.
But, with a tournament this bonkers, it's not terribly surprising that the name has held strong over the past eight decades. This list of facts are the ones that you wonder but forget to Google when the score gets close, the ones that you can bring up over a beer while watching the Final Four, and the ones that will breathe some hard-earned wisdom into your bracket for next year. Here are 11 of the maddest facts about the NCAA Tournament that fans need to know.
1. Cutting down the nets
The tradition of championship teams cutting down the net is credited to NC State Head Coach Everett Case, who began to cut down the nets after big wins while coaching high school basketball in Indiana (much like the story of the March Madness moniker). When NC State won the Southern Conference Championship for the first time under Case in 1947, the team cut down the nets, and the tradition stuck.
2. The first true Final Four took place in 1952
That's right, a full 13 years of postseason college basketball were in the books before the Final Four reached the format we see today, with the winners of each of the four regional championships advancing to a common location to compete for the big prize.
3. Seeding hasn't always been a part of March Madness
The first two NCAA Men's Basketball Tournaments had seeds, but then there was a 37 year hiatus before teams were seeded as they are in today's tournament. Kentucky was the first team to win when seeding made its return to the Big Dance in 1978. The Wildcats were a two seed and upset top seeded Duke in the Championship game. In the video, you can see the unlikely Final Four squad Syracuse reacting to its inclusion in this year's tournament.
4. Villanova is the lowest seed to ever win the tournament
The Villanova Wildcats were an eight seed in 1985 when they ran through two one seeds, two two seeds, and a five to bring home the banner for the season. One of those two seeds, coincidentally, was the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, who the Wildcats knocked out in the Elite Eight — the same Tar Heels that will face this year's Cinderella story, the 10 seeded Syracuse Orange on Saturday for a shot at the Championship game.
5. One seeds have mixed fortunes
The Final Four has only been made up of exclusively one seeds once in the history of the tournament, while the Final Four has had zero one seeds three times (twice since the field expanded to 64 teams).
6. The active coach with the most championships
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has five championships. The rest of the coaches in the ACC, collectively, also have five championships. The late, great John Wooden who retired in 1976 and Coach K are tied for Final Four appearances at 12 a piece, but Wooden walked away with twice as many trophies.
7. A weird phenomenon "In the Annapolis"
Last year, there was a Final Four commercial starring Samuel L. Jackson and Charles Barkley in which Barkley mistakenly drives to Annapolis, Maryland rather than Indianapolis, Indiana. Well, since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, Duke has won about 63 percent of Championships in which the Final Four was hosted in cities ending in "apolis" (that's Indianapolis and Minneapolis). The Blue Devils have never won a NCAA Tournament title outside of an "apolis."
8. 12 seeds had a winning record in the first round for years
I've mentioned before that the 12 versus five match ups are notorious for producing wild upsets, but the basketball universe has come to accept the frenzied nature of those games after 12 seeds went an astonishing 15 for 28 from 2008-2014, giving them a winning record against five seeds. And after a poor 0-4 showing in 2015, 12 seeds came back to win two out of four of their first round games this season.
9. The "First Four" seeds explained — finally
This one has been puzzling me since 2011, but I've finally found a satisfactory answer. Before 2011, two tournament victors from small conferences would be granted automatic bids (as all tournament victors are) to compete for the very last slot in the bracket, a game referred to as the play-in game. In 2011, the selection committee changed the process. Now, eight teams compete for the four 11 seeds, which seems counter-intuitive if you're not sure why teams are playing into the 11 spot rather than the lowly 16. The secret is that the teams invited to compete in the "First Four" games are largely at-large bids, meaning they were good enough to make the tournament without necessarily having won their respective conference tournaments. The idea is that, since they are arguably better teams than a mid-major automatic bid squad, that they should be seeded higher and given a chance to advance against a six seed. Speaking of which...
10. One of the "First Four" teams has advanced every time
Since the invention of the “First Four” in 2011, at least one of those newly anointed 11 seeds has advanced to the round of 32. The strange part is that all six times, the team to advance to the second round has been one of the two squads that won on Wednesday night rather than Thursday, a trend that will likely peter out with a larger sample size but maintained its weirdness through this season when Wichita State upset Arizona in the first round.
11. We may have a best of three series in the Final Four soon
Rumblings of expanding the Final Four and Championship rounds to three best of three series have been circulating for a few years now, a controversial concept that would, undoubtedly give us a better idea of who the better team is in a particular match up but would also likely cut down on wild upsets.
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