Guide to March Madness

March 12, 2021
Sports NewsBasketball
Guide to March Madness


Buzzer-beaters, upsets, and the best college basketball players in the country — March Madness has it all. That’s why the annual single-elimination NCAA Division I men's and women's college basketball tournaments draw millions of viewers each year. So whether you’re new to college hoops and wondering what all the madness is about or just looking for some tips before you fill out your bracket, we’ve got you covered.

The structure

Both March Madness tournaments feature 68 teams competing for the national title. Typically, 32 teams are granted automatic berths to the tournament after winning their respective conference championship, while the remaining spots are composed of at-large bids, chosen by a selection committee.

The madness

So why do we call the tournament March “Madness?” Well, there’s always plenty of chaos. Once the field is set, teams are divided into four bracket quadrants and assigned a seeding (No. 1 through No. 16). In the first round, the No. 1 seed plays the No. 16 seed, No. 2 plays No. 15, and so on.

You’d expect the No. 1 seed to easily defeat the No. 16 seed, but that’s where the madness comes in. There are always plenty of thrilling upsets in the tournament.

  • One of our favorite upsets? In 1998, No. 16 Harvard women’s basketball defeated No. 1 Stanford 71–67, the first time in March Madness herstory a No. 16 seed had ever defeated a No. 1. Let’s hear it for the underdogs.

What's the deal with the brackets?

Part of what makes March Madness so fun is that fans can get in on the action by creating their own bracket, choosing which teams will advance through each round and ultimately guessing at who will win it all. With so many upsets, folks have started thinking outside of the box when it comes time to make their picks, making selections based on everything from mascots to team colors.

  • You can even take inspo from former President Barack Obama's picks. The former POTUS, an avid basketball fan, releases a bracket each year, a tradition he started from the Oval Office. Nothing but net.

We fly high

Here are some March Madness fun facts to prep you for the Big Dance:

  • While millions try each year, the odds of filling out the perfect bracket have been calculated to be one in 9.2 quintillion. May the odds be ever in your favor...
  • Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner is known for blocking shots in the WNBA, so naturally she holds the March Madness record for blocked shots in a single game. In 2010, Griner swatted away 14 (!!!) shots in her Baylor squad's win over Georgetown. Talk about a block party.
  • UConn's women and UCLA's men have the most March Madness title wins with 11 each. And both teams have posted multiple perfect seasons en route to their championships, with the Huskies boasting six undefeated seasons and the Bruins going unbeaten four times. And Hannah said nobody's perfect...pfft.