The time has come that comes but once a year. The time of cheers and the time for tears. The time when unheard of young phenoms can become household names. March Madness is upon us, and yet again the nation is atwitter. However, if one reads this and does not instantly get goosebumps you will not be lonely. There a more than a few of us who do not understand why some tear apart printed brackets and curse the name of their underdog 12th seed. This is for you.

Way back in 1939, the first NCAA championship was held between the University of Oregon and Ohio State University. Oregon won by 13 points. This began an annual tradition of national collegiate basketball competition. For the first twelve years, only eight teams were invited to participate. Each year after that though, the number steadily grew. Across the country local supporters realized that their little college could gain national fame. Now the event begins with a crowd of 68 teams. This is whittled down to the “sweet sixteen” after four days. It is cut further in the next two days of play to the “final four”. Over two more days of competition a champion is crowned.

The University of California Los Angeles, UCLA, has won the most titles holding eleven trophies. Followed by Kentucky with seven. It should be noted that ten of UCLA’s eleven victories came between 1964 and 1975 under the direction of a single head coach, John Wooden; and their star player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the Most Outstanding Player trophy three times with this team. Not to leave out Kentucky, it should be said that they started winning with back to back wins in 1948 and 49.

Since its humble beginnings, the NCAA championship has become much more complex in its team selection and in how the tournament is run. 32 teams will gain automatic access to the tournament by winning their regular conference championships. An additional 36 teams will be added by selection. The selection is done by a group of ten committee members that are college athletic directors, and a larger group of conference commissioners. These folks look at the statistics to determine who should play, and what their rank, or seed, in the tournament bracket should be. This is the policy for both the men’s and women’s tournaments.  

This year’s host for the final four will be the University of Phoenix in Arizona. There are concerts, fan events, and chances to meet some all-stars starting march 31st and ending on April 3rd. It is worth noting that Minneapolis has been selected to host the 2019 Final Four. This is the third time Minneapolis has been chosen to host this tournament. The Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee has been formed and opened their official office space in US bank plaza in January of 2017. Though it is still two years off there is plenty of work already being done to ensure the event is a success for the entire metro area.

This year’s NCAA seeding selection will take place on Sunday, March 12th. The women’s bracket will be announced on the 13th. Games will begin on March 14th with the Final Four happening April 1st to the 3rd. Now that you understand how this all works go start printing brackets, say goodbye to your loved ones, and hang on tight because this year’s March Madness is going to be insane.

by Sam Stinogel