Is everyone in your office/class talking about March Madness? The upsets? The odds? Are you lost?
Last week for the kickoff of March Madness, I starting drafting a post where I would talk about my bracket picks and give you a cheat guide to the tournament. Then Thursday happened and my entire bracket was ruined by some major upsets. Way to bust my bracket UAB and GA State! And C’mon Kansas! Now that the Sweet Sixteen is beginning tomorrow, I thought I’d try another post. I’m not an expert by any means, and you may know that in terms of college sports, I rank football number one. However, I try to keep up with NCAA basketball and for those of you who need to fake your way through the tournament – I got your your back with this guide.
But first let’s start at the beginning…
So How Does March Madness Work?
Games are played round-by-round over a three week period where one champion emerges.
After the “first-four” which is a bit much to explain for this basic overview, the 64-team bracket is established. Each winner advances into the next round.
- After Round 2 – 32 teams remain
- After Round 3 – 16 teams remain ( This is called the Sweet 16)
- After Round 4 – 8 Teams remain (aka the Elite Eight)
- After Round 5 – 4 Teams remain (Hello Final Four) ; Fun fact 2008 was the only year all the #1 seeds made it to the final four)
- After Round 5 – Yup, you guessed it two teams remain and some is the national champion and gets to cut down the net.
Why is it called March Madness?
That’s just the way it is. No, that’s not true, but I had to do some research on this one. Apparently, “March Madness” traces back to Illinois’ statewide high-school basketball tournament, which began in 1908. In 1939, an official with the Illinois High School Association, Henry V. Porter, penned an article called “March Madness” for the organization’s in-house magazine. “A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel,” he wrote. Three years later, he followed up with a poem, “Basketball Ides of March,” which read in part: “A sharp-shooting mite is king tonight/ The Madness of March is running.” The phrase was confined to Illinois high-school ball until 1982, when CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger used it during his network’s NCAA tournament coverage. Read more here.
What is a seed?
So you keep hearing about those #1 seeds, eh? Nope, they have nothing to do with gardens. Seeds refer to the placement of a team in one of four regions (East, Midwest, South, and West). Each region has between 16 and 18 teams, which are assigned a seed number of 1 through 18, with the best team in the region awarded the No. 1 seed. Usually, the highest seeds (Nos. 1 through 8) have more success than the lower seeds (Nos. 9 through 16) in the tournament, but there are some Cinderellas.
Cinderella? Like the movie?
No, I’m not talking about Disney’s new Cinderella movie. A “Cinderella” is a team that unexpectedly achieves success in the tournament. Just like Cinderella’s chariot turns back into a pumpkin at midnight, most of the Cinderella teams turn back before reaching the Final Four. But there have been some Cinderella teams in the Final Four (VCU, George Mason, Butler and Wichita State). However, this year doesn’t really have a Cinderella. The lowest-seeded team in the Sweet 16 is No. 11 UCLA and SPOILER ALERT- this school has the most national titles in history. Actually, there are 10 programs still playing that have won national titles. Seven of them have won multiple national titles. Write these down for trivia night.
So I think that’s the basics. Now that we’re caught up you can read my breakdown of the Sweet 16 by clicking more below.
- Kentucky – Is the favorite to win this year’s tournament. They went 34-0 (yup undefeated) this season and on average they scored 74 points per game. They’ve escaped potential upsets from UGA and LSU. Also, any one of their starting five could go off and have a 20 point night and that’s scary.
Fun fact: They have six players who are 6’9” or taller. Big deal. Uh yeah? This means they have a taller rotation team than every Division I basketball team PLUS 29 of 30 NBA teams.
- West Virginia University – Let’s be honest. Very few people, have the Mountaineers beating UK. West Virginia is ranked dead last in the entire country in defensive free throw rate. But this team has heart and an unrelenting full court pressure, so anything is possible.
Fun fact: West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway have wagered ager a Kentucky ham and piece of West Virginia-made Blenko glass.
My prediction: Kentucky 75, WVU 62. You can catch this match-up: March 26 9:45 EST.
- Notre Dame – Notre Dame is the smallest of the four schools with teams competing in Cleveland for Sweet 16 games this week. And for the first time in 12 years (someone fact check me, Wikipedia may be wrong) Notre Dame is in the Sweet 16. They’ve kind of scratched and clawed their way into this round, but they haven’t played their best basketball yet. Which could be a good thing, since they’re coming off a seven game win streak and an ACC title.
- Wichita State – Wichita State came into this tournament with something to prove after UK knocked them out last year. The Shockers have tried to schedule a game against in-state rival the Jayhawks for years (the last time they played one another was 1993 – hello 90’s), but Kansas has always refused. Then March Madness smiled upon us and they “shocked” Kansas to make it to this round. Their defense can give any team a headache, so Notre Dame will need to step it up.
Fun Fact: Sorry, this has nothing to do with basketball really, but at Wichita State, on average after scholarships, students pay just over $9,000 per year. Why didn’t I go there? I would’ve made a great Shocker, but now Sallie Mae owns my life and my first two unborn children.
I’m going say this is going to be a close one. Notre Dame 70, Wichita State 68. You can catch this match-up: March 26 7:15 EST.
- UNC – The Tar Heels are onto the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. So I’m excited. All season UNC had all the pieces, but couldn’t put it together consistently. The biggest unknown here is the status of center Kennedy Meeks, who suffered an injury in the Tar Heels’ win over Arkansas. He was limited in practice yesterday, but I haven’t read anything about whether or not he’ll be avail on Thursday. If not UNC will need junior guard Marcus Paige (the most consistent offensive producer this season) to go AWF.
Fun Fact: I wore UNC paraphernalia every UNC vs. Duke game in high school and until USC offered me some fabulous scholarship money, I thought I would be a Tarheel. I still cheer for Roy and his boys though. Duke is puke and Wake is fake. The team I hate is NC State. You can’t get to heaven in a red canoe because God’s favorite color is Carolina Blue. *takes bow*
- Wisconsin – The Badgers are eyeing their second consecutive trip to the Final Four and perhaps a shot at a national championship. Wisconsin is ranked first nationally in both defensive free throw rate and turnover percentage, and is 346th in tempo. So basically, to beat them you’re going to have to work for it.
I’m biased. I will always choose UNC. So my prediction: UNC 70, Wisconsin 69. You can catch this match-up: March 26 7:47 p.m. EST.
- UCLA – The Bruins are making their 47th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. But I agree with everyone that says they didn’t deserve a bid and they don’t belong in the Sweet 16. What I will say is I love a good sports story and the father-son pair and (family legacy) that UCLA has going on is intriguing.
Fun fact: I already mentioned this, but UCLA has won the most titles of any school: 11. However, they’ve only won one since 1975.
- Gonzaga – The Bulldogs advanced to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009 by defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-68. Gonzaga and UCLA met on Dec. 13 in Los Angeles, and the then-No. 9 Zags came away with an 87-74 victory. Will history repeat itself?
Fun Fact: The Zag’s women’s team also made it to the Sweet 16 so that makes it a Super Sweet Sixteen, right? Also you should probably check out this video of Coach Few celebrating with an epic handstand.
Hmm… I’m gonna say Gonzaga 75, UCLA 67.You can catch this match-up: March 27 7:15 p.m. EST.
- Michigan State – Is a team that is no stranger to the Sweet 16. In fact, in the past 8 years, they’ve been there seven times. The rule is: You don’t go against Tom Izzo in March. The Spartans have now won six of their last seven games, including a road win at Indiana and a victory over Maryland in the Big Ten tournament. They are picking up speed and I’m not sure Oklahoma can stop them.
- Oklahoma – This is the Sooners’ first Sweet 16 since 2009. They are going to push the ball and force MSU to RUN (like Forest). Oklahoma and MSU are nearly equal in points scored, each at just under 72 points per game. So I think it’s going to be close.
Fun Fact: Actually, the last time the Sooners found themselves in the Sweet 16 Blake Griffin was on the team.
Hmm… I’m gonna say Michigan State 73, Oklahoma 70.You can catch this match-up: March 27 10:07 p.m. EST.
- Duke (aka DOOK) – Make no mistake, I HATE the Blue Devils. Unfortunately, there was no Mercer to beat them this year. Please tell me you remember those fantastic videos of Mercer hittin’ the Nae Nae. Back to the topic at hand. You can not deny the legend that is Coach K – short for Krzyzewski (I copy/pasted that). I think they have a path forged for the Final Four.
Fun Fact: Coach K is the best-paid coach in America. In 2014, he made nearly $10 million, ten times as much as the university president.
- Utah – Everyone thought that Utah would be knocked out in their opening game of the NCAA tournament. So far they’ve wagged their Dikembe Mutombo no no no fingers at teams. Would I like them to knock off Duke? Yes! Can it happen? Well anything is possible.
Fun Fact: If you need some water cooler banter you can jokingly challenge your coworkers to spelling bee of the two coaches name. Utah (the team they’ll be playing) coach’s name is Larry Krystkowiak (also CTRL-z’d).
Duke 74, Utah 64. You can catch this match-up: March 26 9:45 p.m. EST.
- Xavier – They are the last Big East team in the tournament and the Musketeers been gaining steam throughout the end of their season. Xavier’s offense is their strength. They rank 21st in the country in offensive efficiency and they are going to need to produce points to beat Arizona. Also, Arizona grabs rebounds at an absurd rate, so out rebounding tem will be key for Xavier.
Fun fact: Xavier coach Chris Mack will face his mentor in Sweet 16! Chris Mack was Sean Miller’s top assistant for five seasons before Miller left for Arizona and Mack was hired to replace him in the head role at Xavier.
- Arizona – Arizona advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year with a 73-58 victory over 10th-seeded Ohio State. Let’s be clear – Arizona should have been a no. 1 seed. No matter what they were seeded, they’re playing like a no. 1. They’re in the top 10 in the nation in both defensive and offensive efficiency and have a few future top NBA draft picks on their roster.
Arizona 75, Xavier 60. You can catch this match-up: March 27 10:17 p.m. EST.
- N.C. State – Right now, the Wolfpack is the only team still in the tournament to take down a number one seed (Villanova). They’re a scrappy team. To make it to the round of 32, they had to howl (sorry, had to) their way out of a 16 point deficit. To add to their resume, this season they’ve also beaten UNC and Duke. The Wolfpack can beat anyone, but the issue is they can also lose to anyone. During the regular season they dropped games to some sub-par teams. (CLEMSUX, Boston, Wofford).
Fun Fact: This isn’t a fun fact. I just wanted to check in to see if you’re still with me. Hi. I appreciate you.
- Louisville – This is the fourth year in a row that the Cardinals have made it to the Sweet 16. However, even their coach has said in interviews that this is far from his best team and that this group has been tough to coach based on diverse personalities. Hmm, hasn’t he ever heard of not airing your dirty laundry? I don’t think they are going to win, but if someone is going to make me a believer in this team it’s freshman guard Quentin Snider.
Fun fact: Despite some of those negative comments the Cardinals are the most recent NCAA champion. UConn, both their men and women, were last year’s champion.
N.C. State 67, Louisville 64. You can catch this match-up: March 27 7:37 p.m. EST.
Finally, while I know this post was about the men’s tournament. I don’t want to forget about the women. Shout-out to my Gamecocks who are headed to the Sweet 16 under the tutelage of the amazing Dawn Staley. Plus there’s this: