March Madness Tidbits


As winter turns to spring in March, thoughts turn to romance and March Madness. Actually, the two are unrelated–just a self indulgent ploy to expand the audience.  Sorry for that.

March Madness came from humble beginnings. The men’s Division 1 tournament first began in 1939.  Eight schools vied for the title won by the University of Oregon and hosted by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Let’s continue with a brief look at the history of the men’s and women’s Division 1 tournament and some interesting facts associated with the men’s tournament.

The NCAA bought the rights to stage the men’s basketball tournament from the NABC in 1939 for the sum of $2,531, the amount of money the NABC lost hosting the event earlier that year. For the next eleven years only eight schools were invited to participate. The field was divided into an “East Region” and a “West Region.” The two region winners met at a predetermined site for a winner-take-all game. The field expanded to 16 teams in 1951 and to 22 teams in 1953.  Again, the NCAA divided the field into an “East Region” and a “West Region,” with the winners playing for the championship. The field fluctuated between 22 and 25 teams between 1953 and 1974. Beginning with the 1975 tournament, the field expanded to 32 teams and divided into four regions for the first time: East, West, Mideast and Midwest. The region names will change from one year to the next based on the location of the cities hosting the regions–South, Southeast and Southwest have also served as region labels.

The media and tournament officials began using the term “Final Four’ with the 1975 tournament.  In 1978, the seeding of teams began when the first four teams of each region were designated one, two, three and four. The field expanded again to 40 teams in 1979 and to 48 a year later.  In 1981, the NCAA began to use the newly created Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for ranking teams and evaluating schools for at-large bids, teams that did not win their conference but were considered worthy of an NCAA bid.

While broadcasting tournament games for CBS in 1982, Brent Musburger began using the term “March Madness” to describe the three-week contest for the national title (the state of Illinois began using the term for its high school tournament in 1908).  Five more teams were added in 1983. Beginning with the 1985 tournament the field expanded to 64 teams, 30 automatic qualifiers (regular season conference champions or conference tournament champions) and 34 at-large bids. The NCAA added a 65th team in 2001 because of the newly created Mountain West Conference and the belief that the number of at-large bids should not be reduced. A play-in game involving two of the lowest seeded teams took place in Dayton, Ohio with the winner earning the right to face a number one seed in its next game. In 2010, the NCAA expanded the play-in games to four thereby expanding the field to 68 teams.

The NCAA women’s Division 1 basketball tournament has been held every year since 1982.  From 1982-1985, 32 schools fought for the title. The field included 40 schools from 1986-1988, 48 from 1989-1993, then 64 from 1994 to the present. Before the NCAA became the official sponsor of the women’s championship tournament, the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women hosted a 16-team competition from 1969-1971.  Beginning in 1972 the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW)  became the official sponsor of the women’s championship.   Sixteen teams participated in the tournament from 1972-1979.  The field expanded to 24 teams for the 1980-1981 tournaments.  Most of the top women’s teams participated in the 1982 NCAA tournament, after which the AIAW decided to cease sponsoring any type of basketball championship competition. The University of Connecticut holds the most national titles with 11 followed by the University of Tennessee with eight.

Fun Facts for the men’s tournament:

–UCLA has won the most men’s titles with 11 followed by the University of Kentucky with eight.

–Championships won by the current Power 5 conference members break down as follows: Pacific 12 with 16, Atlantic Coast Conference with 16, Southeastern Conference with 11, Big 10 with 11, and Big 12 with 5.

–Only four schools have never played in the NCAA Division 1 men’s tournament: the United State Military Academy (Army), The Citadel, St. Francis University—Brooklyn, and the College of William and Mary.

–The current television contract with CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV runs through 2024.

–Excluding the play-in games, no 16th-seeded team has ever won a game in the tournament.

–Eight 15th-seeded teams have upset a 2nd seed, the last in 2016 with Middle Tennessee State University’s win over Michigan State University.

–Twenty-one 14th-seeded teams have defeated a 3rd seed, the last was in 2016 when Stephen F. Austin University beat West Virginia University.

–Twenty-six 13th-seeded teams have knocked off a 4th seed, with the University of Hawaii doing the honors in 2016 versus the University of California.

–The lowest seeds to advance to the Final Four were all 11th seeds: Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011, George Mason University in 2006 and LSU in 1986. None of the schools won a game once reaching the Final Four.


It’s March Madness, where the craziest things always happen. See if your romantic interest will watch a few games with you. If so, you have a keeper!