The Mania of March Madness
The March Madness phenomenon continues to captivate the nation. Young and old, guys and girls – everyone everywhere seems to get into the spirit of college basketball at its finest. So just how did this marvel come to enjoy its everlasting popularity, and how can you and your crew get into the fun of it all?
A Look at the History of March Madness
The first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament hosted a showdown between The Ohio State University and The University of Oregon with a 46–33 triumph clinched by the latter. Since then, the “Final Four” tournament has grown in leaps and bounds from the original 8 teams invited during the first 12 years of the tournament’s existence. Over the years, the field has expanded based on the frenzied excitement the tournament creates. In 2001, a 65th team was added, and then in 2010, the league added three more spots, resulting in today’s 68 teams.
Bracketology is all-consuming for fans, young and old, for those with intimate knowledge of each team and for those who don’t know whether the ball has air, water, or feathers inside.
This single-elimination tournament is the second most popular sporting event among the gambling crowd after the Super Bowl. To date, the UCLA Bruins have been the most successful team to compete, amassing 11 championships over the years. The NCAA added a women’s basketball tournament in 1982, echoing the men’s tournament, with the championship game tipping off the day after the men’s tournament concludes.
When it comes to filling out a bracket, there’s more than one way to skin a basketball tournament. Some participants study up on the teams down to the granular level of top players, injuries, and other factors to pair up teams, arriving at the final four teams and ultimately, the winner. Others may simply make their picks by choosing between the mascots or team colors. Strategy for filling out a bracket varies greatly and most times it comes down to a little bit of luck.
“March Madness captures the attention of American sports fans each year because there is something for everyone,” says Corey Goff, Director of Athletics and Recreation at Muhlenberg College. “Fans want to be in the game and no other sporting event is as engaging as the NCAA Tournament. Bracketology is all-consuming for fans, young and old, for those with intimate knowledge of each team and for those who don’t know whether the ball has air, water, or feathers inside.
“Anyone can pick teams,” he adds. “After each game, there is a fury of action across the country updating brackets with color coded results. Some fans highlight the winners, others circle them, some place a big X over fallen teams for the remainder of the bracket, others wait until each round is played before assigning the loss. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but everyone is engaged.”
Living for the Glory
Once the brackets are filled out, it’s time to tune in. College basketball lures in audiences far and wide. Coverage of last year’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament saw 11.3 million total viewers tuning in – the highest viewership in more than two decades! March Madness also ignited sparks online, in social media, and even on the tournament’s streaming app, NCAA March Madness Live.
“Storylines are captivating,” Goff says. “Whether it is watching Kentucky chase the perfect season or watching George Mason make a final four run there is always something to root for (or against).
“Every once in a while you can see a weaker team win a meaningful game in the NFL or NBA playoffs, but American sports fans know if they dedicate themselves (skip work and let the to-do list wait) and watch March Madness closely enough, they will be rewarded by seeing close games and major upsets EVERY YEAR. Add the bracketology equation back into this equation and watching Lehigh knock off Duke just becomes that much more exciting or depressing; either way it is emotional.”
Another enticing factor in the whole March Madness phenomenon is the social aspect. Friends and family alike all enjoy getting together to watch the game, or at the very least, to socialize and snack on delicious appetizers and party food. Throwing together a March Madness party doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. You can host a viewing party at a moment’s notice with some pizza and beer or plan in advance and ask all your guests to bring a Final Four themed dish or treat.
Dips, chips, soft pretzels, pigs in blankets, veggie trays, and other snack food can help to get your party started. Main courses like meatballs, roast beef, and other sub-friendly fare simmering away in crock pots can give you the freedom to actually relax, sit down, and watch the game. Trays of hoagies and other ready-made entrees make it even easier. Don’t forget drinks and desserts to round out your March Madness spread.
Keep things competitive and invite your guests to fill out brackets for an added level of fun. If you host a party to kick off the madness, you can start your party early enough for everyone to fill out a bracket before the fun gets started. A quick search online reveals websites (like printyourbrackets.com/marchmadness.html) where you can print your own empty brackets to fill out for the tournament.
Even if you don’t have time to fill out a full bracket at your party, have your guests pick teams from the day’s games to keep things interesting. You can also have everyone select a championship team and see who comes out on top at the end of the tournament.