College basketball highlights its best with March Madness. This is the popular name of the annual NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament. It is held each year during March, and the name is appropriate for this event. The annual competition is the best showcase for college basketball for many reasons.
One reason is the high level of competitiveness one witnesses during the tournament. College basketball is very competitive during the regular season. However, during March Madness, competition is taken to a whole new level. The NCAA Division 1 selection committee deserves the lion’s share of credit for this laudable feat.
The first and second rounds of the 2017 Men’s National College Basketball Tournament are now complete. A total of 68 teams from Division 1 made up the field of participants. 32 of the teams are automatic selections for the tournament. These comprise the winners of the various college basketball conference tournaments around the nation. The remainder of the field is chosen by the selection committee.
The committee engages in a grueling process producing a field representing the best 36 teams that are not automatic selections. They gather and analyze a vast amount of information regarding national rankings by the press and coaches, wins and losses, point differential, and more.
These stalwarts also divide these 68 teams into four regional brackets. They encompass the West, East, Midwest, and South regions of the country. The committee ranks 60 teams from 1 to 15 per region, and places each group of 15 in one of the regional brackets. The remaining eight teams play each other for the right to be the 16th seed in each bracket.
The selection committee strives to create the most competitive tournament possible. The first two rounds of this year’s March Madness have succeeded in doing that. Thirty-two games were played last Thursday. Fourteen of those games were decided by less than 10 points. That is not a large margin in college basketball. Teams that win by single digits know they could have easily lost.
The competition got even more lively in the second round. The first round games whittled the field down to 32 teams. Sixteen games were played to complete the second round on Friday. Eleven of those contests were decided by less than 10 points. Five of them were decided by less than five points. This demonstrates real team competition on a national stage.
The regular occurrence of upsets during the tournament is another reason college basketball highlights its best with March Madness. South Carolina knocked out, college basketball perennial power, Duke University in a second round upset this year, 88-81. Number seven Michigan defeated second-seeded Louisville, 73-69, also in the second round. The 11th-seeded small college, Xavier, decimated third-seed, Florida State, 91-66.
Wisconsin delivered the biggest upset of the tournament so far. They took out the No. 1 overall team in the entire tournament, Villanova, 65-62. Villanova was favored to repeat as national champions, while Wisconsin was only seeded number eight in the East bracket. College basketball fans who root for the underdog, are often rewarded during March Madness.
These kinds of upset victories have occurred in almost every yearly episode of March Madness. Here are a few of the greatest upsets in the history of college basketball’s premiere showcase.
No. 15 Richmond ejected No. 2 Syracuse from the first round by 4 points in 1991. The Santa Clara Broncos upset college basketball powerhouse and second-ranked Arizona by three points in 1993. In 2005 lowly Bucknell shocked college basketball elite Kansas by just one point to advance to the second round.
March Madness now continues with the remaining 16 teams of the original 68. Typically, the experience is more entertaining at this point, and the games display greater levels of college basketball excellence and excitement. The teams that have made it thus far, have also now earned their own special names. The names are officially unofficial. That is part of the fun of March Madness. These 16 are called the Sweet Sixteen.
The third round of games between the Sweet Sixteen teams produces the Elite Eight of college hoops. The victors move on to the illustrious Final Four of men’s college basketball. The weekend of the Final Four, officially known as the National Semifinals of the tournament, is the crown jewel of events for college basketball fans.
This combination of high levels of competition, closely contested games, the abundance of upsets, and entertainment are unique in sports. College basketball fans rarely see this kind of excitement and excellence of play during the regular season. Sports fans delight that college basketball highlights its best with March Madness.
By Daniel Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
NCAA: March Madness bracket: How the 68 teams are selected for the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament
NCAA: Every NCAA tournament upset and how it happened
Land of 10: 2017 NCAA Tournament: Updated bracket, schedule entering Sweet 16
CBSSPORTS: March Madness 2017: Kentucky, Kansas among teams on second-round upset alert
Featured and Top Images Courtesy of Chad Cooper’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License