American Culture

Explaining March Madness


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You go to the University of Kansas, and basketball is a pretty big deal here. Even though you may not care too much about athletics, it is still valuable to know a couple of important things about basketball. Traditionally, KU excels at the game, and it’s also America’s second favorite sport.

Another reason why you should care about the game, is because it can be a reason to be proud of your school, and because KU is good at basketball you, yes you, get to share in that glory too. It’s like getting a gift card and buying something at the expense of nothing! Everybody loves that. Lastly, when you meet your significant other’s dad for the first time and he knows you go to KU, there is a high probability he may ask you something about basketball. In that moment you are going to be happy that you know how to look like you know what you are talking about.

So for starters, you know that basketball was developed at KU. Now we are going to dive even deeper as you discover one of the most exciting and cherished sporting events in America! It is called March Madness, and here is what you need to know about it.

The Fundamentals

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March Madness is a collegiate basketball tournament directed by the NCAA. The NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. March Madness is a tournament that occurs during, you guessed it, March. 64 teams from across the nation are hand picked by the NCAA committee to compete in the journey to have an opportunity to win the championship in college basketball. Here is the catch though, if you lose you’re done. Each round, the number of teams left are cut in half from 64 teams, to 32 teams, to 16 teams, on down. This sets the stage for some of the greatest upsets in sports history, where the underdog beats the team predicted to win it all. Talk about an exhilarating experience!

The Brackets

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Each team that enters the tournament is given a seed, ranging 1 through 16. There are four different regions, the East, West, South, and Midwest, so there are 4 of each seed. Four 1 seeds, 2 seeds, 3 seeds, all the way up to 16. In the opening round of the tournament, lower seeds play the higher seeds in each region, so 1 plays 16, 2 plays 15 and so on. The teams are given their seed usually depending on their record, but also the strength of their schedule and their conference that they play in.

 A Cinderella Story

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The Sweet 16 is typically when “buzzer beaters” happen. What is a “buzzer beater” you might ask? Well, when a game comes down to the final seconds of the second half, it’s when one team heaves up a final desperate shot hoping that they make it, and then it happens. As the clock expires, the ball goes through the net, the team wins, and all chaos breaks loose.

If you make it to the Sweet 16 then your run as a team in the tournament is considered a success by many people. But since you are a student at KU, you expect even more, and so does your team. After the first two rounds have been played you arrive at the Sweet 16. The Elite 8 is next, if your team wins, and then the Final Four, and then if you are really lucky, your team might even make it to “The Dance,” or the national championship game.

So now you have an understanding of what March Madness is all about, and the ability to hold a conversation with someone about it, and with March quickly approaching you have an opportunity to experience it first hand and watch it. But I must warn you, you might not be the same after you do.

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Hero image from KU’s flickr.



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