What Is March Madness? A Complete Beginner’s Guide

March Madness is one of the biggest college basketball tournaments of the year. From the second week of March to the first week of April, fans from across the country watch closely to cheer on their favorite teams and see who will win the national championship.

Whether you’re new to college basketball or you just want to know more about what this period entails, the guide below will help you understand what March Madness is, how it works, and what it means for WVU sports.

WVU in March Madness 2017

The Mountaineers are the 4th seed in the West Bracket. Arguably, the easiest bracket of the four, the Mountaineers will have to overcome a possible Sweet 16 match-up against the #1 Seed Gonzaga.

The West bracket is seeded with the following teams

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Arizona
  3. Florida St.
  4. WVU
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Maryland
  7. St. Marys
  8. Northwestern
  9. Vanderbilt
  10. VCU
  11. Xavier
  12. Princeton
  13. Bucknell
  14. FGCU
  15. North Dakota St.
  16. South Dakota St.

Rounds 1 & 2

In the First Round, West Virginia University triumphed over Bucknell University with a final score of 86-80. In the Second Round, the Mountaineers beat the Fighting Irish basketball team from Notre Dame with a score of 83-71.

Sweet 16

In their next game, they face off against the first seed of the West Bracket, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The winner of this match up will head to the Elite 8 to take on either #11 Xavier or #2 Arizona.

WVU has never won March Madness . Could this be the year that we take it all the way?

What Is March Madness?

March Madness is a college basketball tournament run by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It consists of 68 Division I men’s basketball teams and 64 women’s basketball teams that are carefully selected to play for the national championship. The teams go head-to-head in a single-elimination tournament (aka a knockout tournament) until one is ultimately declared the victor.

Why Is It Called “March Madness”?

The term “March Madness” is loosely based on the frenzied state fans go into when the games start. It came about in 1982 when a reporter from CBS casually used the saying during a telecast. Needless to say, it stuck, and now the expression March Madness is partly owned by the NCAA. More than anything else, it’s a catchy phrase that’s easy to remember. Plain and simple.

The Selection Process for March Madness

There are nearly 700 Division I teams (men’s and women’s combined), and that number has to be narrowed down to 132 – 68 men’s and 64 women’s. Thirty-two teams for each gender earn their invitations to March Madness by winning conferences. The remaining 36 men’s and 32 women’s teams are chosen by the selection committee.

There are separate selection committees for men’s and women’s basketball. Typically, the men’s basketball selection committee consists of all men and the women’s consists of all women, though there have been some exceptions. Well-known women’s basketball coach Janet Cone is a member of the current men’s committee.

The selection committee meets all year long to discuss the tournament. Then they have a meeting between Thursday and Sunday right before March Madness starts to officially determine which teams will make the cut. The decisions are announced on TV during Selection Sunday.

Several factors go into the selection process, including:

  • Ranking in national polls
  • Rating Percentage Index (RPI – Learn more here)
  • Adjusted RPI (not public information)
  • Wins against ranked opponents
  • Performance during the regular season
  • Conference and road records

Each member of the selection committee submits a list of teams they believe should have a guaranteed spot in March Madness. If eight members recommend the same team, that team is given a spot. The rest go through a heavy debate until the committee comes to a conclusion.

How March Madness Tournaments Are Bracketed – Seeds and Pods

Once the selection committee has chosen the teams to compete, they also have to determine which teams will play against each other. There are four regions the teams can be placed in – Midwest, West, East and South. Teams are “seeded” into one of these regions, and then they are put in groups of seeds called pods. The committee works to create a balance within each region, putting a mixture of weak and strong teams throughout to make sure one region’s teams does not have an unfair advantage over another region.

Not only does the selection committee have to determine seeding, but they also have to decide where each pair of teams is going to play. A team cannot play in its home arena, but high-ranking teams are usually given a site close to home. There are strict rules that govern the seeding process, but it eventually results in a set of brackets that showcase each game, line by line.

The March Madness Tournament

Over the course of three weeks, the 68 men’s basketball teams and 64 women’s teams compete in games according to the bracket. In the men’s tournament, there is an “opening round” where four teams compete for a spot in the top 64. After that, there are two straight days of play where 64 teams are narrowed down to 32. The next two days narrow the group to 16, known as the Sweet 16. Those teams are given a four day break until they compete again.

Since this is a single-elimination tournament, the winning team from each game moves forward in the tournament. The losing team goes home. In the second week of March Madness, the Sweet 16 are reduced to the Final Four. Those four teams compete during the last week of the tournament until one becomes the NCAA champion.