March Madness Returns

March 19, 2019

Every year when the month of March rolls around, high school and college students across the country wait in crazed anticipation for the Men’s Division 1 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Basketball Tournament. Referred to by most as “March Madness,” the college basketball tournament incorporates some of the best moments and underdog stories in the sports world. Whether on paper or online, March Madness brackets dominate the intrigue of the tournament.

Heroes are born and legends are made each year during the tournament. Last year, 16 seed University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) shocked the world by upsetting #1 University of Virginia (UVA), the first time a 16 seed had defeated a 1 seed. In 2016, Villanova Forward Kris Jenkins nailed a buzzer beater 3-pointer vs North Carolina, winning the National Championship. Current NBA guard CJ McCollum led 15 seed Lehigh to a shocking upset victory over 2 seed Duke in 2012. And Florida Gulf Coast University’s “dunk city” was born in a win over #2 Georgetown in 2013. These are only some of the examples the glory of March Madness provides each and every year.

The NCAA tournament starts on Tuesday, March 19th and initially fields 68 eligible college teams. Before the first round of the official March Madness tournament, four 16 seed teams and four eleven seed teams face off in the “First Four” tournament, where the four winners advance into the real tournament starting March 21st.  March Madness consists of four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Seeds are based on a points system and expert rankings. Wins are determined in quadrants; the better the win the more points you accumulate. For example, if Davidson beat Michigan State in Michigan, Davidson would climb up the rankings and gain a quadrant 1 win. Quadrant 1 wins are the most impactful for gaining points and climbing up the ranks. Seeds 1-12 for each region are points-based while seeds 13-16 are winners of their respective conference. Seeds 13-16 are almost always small schools that belong to less talented conferences. For example, the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) is a Division 1 basketball powerhouse containing schools such as Duke and Syracuse, while seeds 13-16 may contain a team like the University of Vermont from the America East conference. Teams on the “bubble” of making the tournament are usually large scale schools that are not among the elite, but also not a part of smaller school conferences.  

The NCAA has adopted a new method for ranking teams called the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or “NET” rankings. The NET utilizes several advanced analytics to determine how teams match up with others and demonstrates that the NCAA is moving into the data driven nature of sports. Developed with data scientists from Google, the NET rankings factor in net offensive and defensive efficiency, scoring margin, win percentage adjusted by result and location, and a new algorithm called “team value index.” The NCAA’s new-look ranking system aims to add a modern twist to the March Madness selection process

The most highly-anticipated aspect of the tournament is the bracket craze, a tradition that has only grown as fans can create their brackets online across many sporting outlets including ESPN Tournament Challenge, CBS Sports, and Yahoo Sports. Creating a bracket is quite simple. After selection Sunday on March 17th, just login or create an account to whatever website you want to use. Pick the teams who you believe will win each matchup leading up until the final, when you can predict the final score. 

Whether it’s testing your guessing game, gaining bragging rights over others, or trying to win big money in your friends’ league, creating a bracket is an entertaining activity for all to enjoy. Like every year, March Madness 2019 promises to be thrilling to the very end.

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