March Madness Preview

By Ariel Plevan ‘23, Sports Editor

March is over, and the best of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball is just around the corner. The NCAA Basketball Tournament will start on March 15, and everything gets more chaotic as the tournament’s tipoff approaches. Here is a breakdown of the key dates to know leading up to the beginning of this year’s madness.

Immediately after teams finish up their conference championships, the selection committee will announce the seeding of all 68 teams on Selection Sunday (March 13). The one-hour show offers many surprises, as several teams who do not clinch their spots by winning conference tournaments leave it up to the selection committee to decide their fate. Many teams have their expectations met, but some teams are surprised by their placement.

The First Four is a set of four games that determine two of the 16th seeds and two of the 11th seeds for the main bracket that takes place on March 15-16. These games are often irrelevant, as those teams usually will not win another game in the tournament. However, last year the UCLA Bruins made it from the first four to the Final Four. In most years, these games serve as a warmup for fans to kick off the basketball action. 

The first round of March Madness starts on March 17-18. Unlike the First Four, these games will feature all teams as they play their first matchups. While the matchups are based on seeding, there is still upset potential in every game. Statistically speaking, the most common upset is a 10 seed beating a 7 seed, which happens 39.58% of the time.

The second round begins on March 19-20 after the lower-ranked teams lose and are eliminated. This makes for better matchups as stronger teams face each other in more competitive games. For top teams, this round and the previous one are often cakewalks. However, some teams struggle occasionally. Last season, three of the top eight teams lost in either the first or second rounds.

After a four-day break, there are just 16 teams who remain for the Sweet Sixteen. With under a quarter of the original teams remaining, the matchups at this point are exciting as ever. Last year in the sweet 16, the Cinderella run of 15th seeded Oral Roberts University was stopped here by Arkansas, who beat them by just two points. 

The Elite Eight shows off some of the best matchups in the entire tournament. At this point, it is only teams who have battled the toughest of opponents to make it to where they are now, and if they are not a one or two seed, they have already upset a higher-seeded school to get there. These matchups are generally close. In 2021, three of the four Elite Eight games were decided by under 10 points.

Every year beginning in April, the Final Four is nothing but a treat for the viewers. Players put their hearts on the line, and all matchups are almost guaranteed to go down to the wire as long as the teams are evenly matched. In 2021, we saw both sides of that. The two games played were the Baylor Bears against the Houston Rockets, which ended with a 19-point Baylor victory, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs versus UCLA, which went to overtime and was concluded with a half-court buzzer-beater from Jalen Suggs. 

The championship game, regardless of the teams playing or the final score is the most important one of the season. Both teams put everything on the line and try to bring home a national championship for their school. Statistically, first seeded teams in their region win 64% of national titles. Additionally, only 9% of titles have been won by a team outside the top 4 seeds. Still, anything can happen in mad March, so be sure to tune in and follow the tournament!

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