March Madness is a thrilling time for basketball fans everywhere. Unlike standard major league NBA play, March Madness gives college teams a chance to shine and show off their skills. If you don’t know what March Madness is, here’s a quick primer. It’s a single-elimination tournament taking place across 7 rounds and typically featuring 68 teams. Eventually, those teams are whittled down to just four – the Final Four – one of whom will get a shot at the March Madness title.
As you might expect, March Madness gets pretty hectic. Even though it’s not major NBA play, you can expect that plenty of the promising players from the various collegiate teams in March Madness get drafted to NBA teams. That’s why every single player has to be bringing their A-game to March Madness. There’s plenty of stuff you might not know about this tournament, so we’re here to bring you 8 fascinating facts about March Madness that you can use to impress your friends.
1. The first-ever March Madness was in 1939
The very first March Madness tournament was held the same year that war broke out on the European front. Only eight teams took part in the inaugural tournament, which was won by the University of Oregon, who defeated Ohio State University with a score of 46-33. Only eight teams took part in the tournament until 1951 when March Madness expanded to accommodate twelve teams instead. The numbers grew and grew until today when a whopping 68 teams participate in the tournament. Things have changed a lot since those days, eh?
2. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than predict a perfect bracket
Since March Madness began, basketball fans have been placing friendly bets with one another on who’ll win. However, some fans take this further and try to predict entire brackets. The truth of the matter is that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning, to have quintuplets, or to win the lottery than to be able to predict a perfect run of March Madness games. Don’t take our word for it – check out this brilliant infographic from the guys at Betway for more crazy things that are more likely to happen than nailing a March Madness bracket!
3. There’s not much love for March Madness among employers
Some suggest that as a result of March Madness – employees picking brackets, talking about the action, et cetera – an estimated $1.7 billion is wasted in terms of productivity during the tournament. That’s based on who takes part in office bets and watches televised (or streaming) March Madness games, so it’s perhaps a bit skewed, but still. Estimates suggest around 35 million Americans take part in March Madness in some way, so that’s a lot of wasted productivity!
4. The pandemic has hit March Madness hard too
It seems that no matter where you go, you can’t escape the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The New York Times estimates that the NCAA, the association that runs March Madness, has lost around $56 million thanks to the 2020 tournament not going ahead. However, the NCAA has put some rules in place to protect its players and management staff from the pandemic while still hopefully finding a way for March Madness 2021 to forge forward. NCAA basketball senior vice president Dan Gavitt says it’s going to be “complicated and difficult”. Oof.
5. The National Invitation Tournament wasn’t always a consolation prize
Many people view the National Invitation Tournament (or NIT) as a consolation bracket, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, the NIT started life earlier than the NCAA March Madness tournament and was originally seen as the superior bracket. Way back in the mid-1940s – when World War II was in full swing in the USA – the winners of the NIT and the NCAA tournaments would actually face off against one another for a chance to win the championship title. Things have changed a lot since then, but never forget where the NIT came from and why you should still take it seriously!
6. Pizza and beer reign supreme in March
Thanks in large part to March Madness, Americans consume a heck of a lot of beer and pizza in March. Each year, the production of beer spikes by around 3.5 million cases to keep up with the insane level of increased demand. Pizza, meanwhile, sees orders leap by about 19 percent. If you’re spending March Madness indoors watching the tournament and hoping your bracket comes through this year, you might want to spare a thought for the poor pizza delivery folks.
7. The youngest winning coach was in his early 30s
The youngest-ever coach to win a title at March Madness took part in the second-ever NCAA tournament. Emmett “Branch” McCracken won the 1940 tournament with Indiana’s team at 31 years of age and still holds the record of the youngest coach to win the tournament to this very day. Fun fact: McCracken once again took his team to victory in 1953, so it’s clear he wasn’t a one-trick pony! Unfortunately, McCracken passed away in 1970, but his legacy remains strong.
8. The term “March Madness” dates back to 1982
Alright, so technically, “March Madness” isn’t even a term used in conjunction with the NCAA. It was a high-school term used by Illinois High School Association official H.V. Porter, but it was first coined in conjunction with the NCAA’s tournament by legendary sportscaster Brent Musburger. It then became embroiled in legal turmoil when the Illinois High School Boys Basketball Championship objected to the use of the term, as it had been in use for that championship since 1939. Remarkably, the judge, in that case, gave the right to use the term to both tournaments!