NCAA Tournament: Bracketology, Cinderella Teams, The Big Dance

Wed Mar 03, 2021 19:51:29PM
Peyton Siva hoists Louisville's NCAA championship trophy in 2013By: Adam Glanzman
The Men's Division 1 Basketball Championship, better known as the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, or 'The Big Dance', is the absolute pinnacle of college basketball. It's the event that makes college basketball one of the most intriguing and talked about sports in not just college athletics, but in the sport's world at large. For roughly an entire month, March Madness dominates the sports world, making this tournament arguably the most exciting way to culminate a season of games in any sport, college or pro alike.

Sure the Super Bowl is great, the NBA finals are fun, and college football's playoff format is now even more interesting. But nothing compares to 64 (well really 68) national teams squaring off in a single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament. There are just so many story lines happening simultaneously. So much coverage. So much drama. So much on the line. So many upsets. What's not to like? This event truly has something for everyone, even for the casual fan that otherwise doesn't pay much attention to college hoops during the regular season; that's where brackets come in.

Bracketology
Speaking of brackets, talk about a great accompanying addition to a sport that allows fans to intensely interact and follow every single game. The way it works is pretty ingenious, if you've never played along. Once Selection Sunday takes place (where they release the 68 teams that will be entered into the tournament, based upon season records, along with each team's corresponding ranks) you place all the teams onto a bracket and guess game by game how the entire tournament will go. So many people play along, it's become a bonafide national past time, and an event in and of itself. Even Presidents play; check out Barack's '14 board:



Cinderella Teams
Probably my favorite part of the entire tournament is watching the story lines to the "Cinderella Teams". The Cinderella Teams are the teams that no one picks to win at all. These are the teams that many times barely even sneak into the tournament, or that aren't expected to go that far, but none the less pull off at least one major upset. And at most they find a way to win it all. Every single tournament year, there will be at least one long shot squad that takes down a Louisville, or a Kentucky, or a NCAA tourney giant like UCLA. What's great about these 'little guys that could' are the personal stories, the op-ed player profiles that come out, as they do the seemingly impossible. The media features these players and thrust them into the national headlines for days or weeks at a time, and it's really cool to see them in their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes, out of nowhere, from a Cinderella Team, a future star is born.

Defying logic. The underdog making it big. That's what makes a true Cinderella story. Here's a great example from the '13 NCAA Tournament, Florida Gulf Coast:



The Big Dance
From Selection Sunday to the Championship Game and every event in between, the NCAA Tournament's sheer volume of coverage and amount of time it takes for everything to play out has earned it the nicknames of 'March Madness', or my personal favorite the 'Big Dance'. Typically Selection Sunday takes place around March 15th, and the final Championship game plays the first week of April. So that's almost an entire month, from start to finish, of drama to crown a victor. March being the main month of madness, hence the nickname.

A few days after Selection Sunday, you get the First Four. The First Four was introduced into the tournament format back in 2011 to allow for a few more teams to make it into the Round of 64. After that, the tournament schedule plays out as follows:

Second/Third Rounds (Round of 64 and Round of 32)
South Regional (Sweet Sixteen)
West Regional (Sweet Sixteen)
East Regional (Elite Eight)
Midwest Regional (Elite Eight)
Final Four
Championship Game

So there you have it. One of the most compelling sporting events on the planet. For official coverage and up to date schedules (no matter the year), check out NCAA's March Madness page here. Be sure and fill out a bracket, join a pool, and watch out for that Cinderella team. Every year, there's at least one story worth tuning in for.
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