Monday, March 24, 2008

Your Guide to the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Since you loved my football analysis, here is basketball.

Along time ago, there was something called the National
Invitational Tournament (NIT). At the end of the basketball
season, somebody invited the 32 best teams in the country
and they played to determine a champion. Sounds good. The
problem was that the NCAA was not making any money, so they
invented their own tournament of 32 teams. The best 32
teams in the country would play for the NCAA championship.
Undeterred, the NIT STILL had their tournament with the
next best 32 teams in the country. Why? Nobody knows. It is
like having the Grey Cup.

Years later, they expanded the field to 64 teams.

Now, there are 300+ division 1 basketball teams. There
are MANY schools you have not heard of. Schools like
University of Maryland - Baltimore County Retrievers,
Campbell Fighting Camels, and the Tulane Green Wave. What
makes the tournament great is that every conference
champion makes the big tournament. Schools that nobody has
ever heard of make it each year. BUT, the best teams in the
conference don't get in. The winner of the conference
tournament at the end of the year (before the big
tournament) makes it to "The Big Dance." A team
can get lucky and make it. See: 20 LOSS Coppin State making
it this year. I have no idea where Coppin State is or what
conference they play in.

So, we get around 31 conference champions and 34 at
large teams selected by a committee. The selection process
is given more attention than the presidential election. The
seletion committee matches the team up from worst to best
in 4 16-seed regions. The best teams get to play close to
home (the sites are determined years ahead of time, but no
team can play in their home arena). For example, North
Carolina is the best team and will play their first two
games in Raleigh and their second two games in Charlotte.

Things to consider:

1) You are thinking: WAIT, 31 + 34 makes 65 teams! WTF!
You are right, about 5 years ago they added the play-in
game for two teams that are terrible. These teams have to
play to determine who sucks a little less and this team
gets to play North Carolina in the first round and lose by
40 points. They did this to add another BCS (you remember
the bowl championship series) team to the tournament for
money purposes.

2) Each city hosts two rounds of games and then the
sites rotate. Teams will play this Thursday-Saturday and
Friday-Sunday in some city and then move on to a new city
if they do not lose. The Final Four is MASSIVE and is in
San Antonio this year.

3) They still have the NIT tournament where the second
best 64 teams in the country have a tournament to determine
who is the 66th best team in the country. I CANNOT MAKE
THIS UP. Nobody knows why it exists.

4) No 16th seed has ever beaten a #1 seed. Not ever.
Four #15 seeds have been #2 seeds.

5) The tournament always starts during March break.

6) This month long
tournament occurs during the final exam for these schools.
These student athletes can study hard and play hard!

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