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Baskets, Brackets, and Buzzer-Beaters—A Beginner's Guide To March Madness

Updated: May 1

March Madness, The Final Four, The Big Dance

An Event With Many Names

March Madness

For some, it's a time of exhilaration, suspense, and the thrill of watching underdogs defy the odds. But for others, it's just another sporting event, lost amidst the cacophony of games and brackets. If you fall into the latter category, or worse, the camp of the March Madness haters, it's time to reconsider. Let's delve into why March Madness is not just about basketball, but an experience that transcends the court.

a basketball rim net and backboard with basketballs

The Final Four

With 64 teams competing in a single-elimination tournament, you need a pretty big bracket to keep track of it all. But the fact is, the tournament starts with 68 teams, not 64, so they have a couple "play-in" games for four teams that were possibly on the outside, looking in. I'm sure it has changed quite a bit over the years, but we're not going there today. However, 64 seems to be the perfect number of teams to start with, providing for the most participation, without being too burdensome. And oh, by the way, as far as I'm aware, a perfect bracket has never been picked! I'll skip all the filler and just show how the NCAA Basketball Tournament breaks down.

First Four Play-in tourney held in Dayton, Ohio prior to the tournament

First Round (aka the Round of 64) Played the first two days (Thurs. & Fri.)

Second Round (aka the Round of 32) Played the third and fourth days (Sat. & Sun.)

Sweet Sixteen Played the following Thurs. and Fri.

Elite Eight Played Sat. and Sun. following the Sweet 16

Final Four Played the following Saturday

The Championship Monday, April 8

a tournament bracket

The Big Dance

According to Google, and, calling the tournament "The Big Dance" was coined in 1977 by coach Al McGuire of Marquette, who won the Big Dance that year. And guess who's on the bracket this year? Yep, Marquette—they're a 2 seed in the South bracket. Check out the history behind The Big Dance here > big-dance-by-shea-corrigan

Excitement of the Unexpected

At the heart of March Madness lies the essence of unpredictability. No matter how meticulously you craft your bracket, there's always that one game that defies all logic. Whether it's a buzzer-beater from half-court or a Cinderella team knocking out a powerhouse, the madness ensues, and hearts race.

In the 2024 Men's Basketball Tournament, this unpredictability will be on full display. The play-in games, held in the iconic Dayton Arena in Ohio, set the stage for the tournament's rollercoaster ride. The thrill of these matchups, where teams fight tooth and nail for their chance to enter the main draw, is a testament to the tournament's intensity from the get-go.

a book and basketball players on a court
Hi Mom!

The Upset—Underdog Storylines

One of the most captivating aspects of March Madness is the underdog storylines. These are the moments that capture the hearts of fans worldwide, where David slays Goliath, and dreams are realized against all odds.

In 2024, the tournament is bound to have its fair share of underdog triumphs. From mid-major schools making deep runs to unheralded players stepping onto the national stage, these stories remind us why we love sports. Who could forget the remarkable journey of the 16th-seeded team that upset the mighty top seed, which had never happened until UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) beat Virginia in a first round upset in 2018, and then last year, #16 seed FDU (Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey) beat Purdue.

The Sense of Community

March Madness isn't just about the games; it's about the shared experience of millions of fans coming together to celebrate the sport they love. Whether it's gathering around the TV with friends and family or joining office pools and online forums, the sense of camaraderie is palpable.

With the tournament spanning multiple locations across the country, from iconic venues like Madison Square Garden to college arenas steeped in tradition, March Madness brings communities together like few other events can. It's a time when allegiances are formed, rivalries renewed, and bonds strengthened over a shared passion for basketball.

The Impact Beyond the Court

Beyond the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, March Madness has a significant impact that extends far beyond the hardwood. The tournament serves as a platform for student-athletes to showcase their talents on a national stage, paving the way for future opportunities both on and off the court.

lettering mountains a basketball a cactus

Moreover, the economic impact of March Madness cannot be overstated. Host cities reap the benefits of increased tourism, hotel bookings, and revenue from ticket sales, bolstering local economies and fostering growth in the surrounding communities. The host cities for the 2024 tourney are Brooklyn, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Memphis, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Spokane, and the Final Four and Championship Game will be held in Phoenix, Arizona this year.

Embrace the Madness

In conclusion, March Madness is more than just a basketball tournament; it's an experience that captivates audiences around the world. From the thrill of the unexpected to the sense of community and camaraderie it fosters, March Madness transcends the realm of sports and becomes a cultural phenomenon.

So, to the March Madness haters and skeptics out there, I urge you to embrace the madness. Open your hearts to the excitement, the drama, and the sheer joy of watching the greatest sporting event on the planet unfold before your eyes. Because in the end, whether your bracket is busted or your team cuts down the nets, one thing is for certain: March Madness will leave an indelible mark on all who dare to experience it.

Let the Madness Begin!

a bluejay and a C

N and C

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