It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
No, not Christmas.
Every March, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, holds a tournament with the 64 best college basketball teams from across the country. It is an exhilarating tournament, hence the name March Madness, and the most important college basketball event of the year. At the conclusion of the tournament, one team will be crowned the 2016-17 NCAA champions. The field of 64 teams will be split into four mini-brackets, or regions, with each group of sixteen teams seeded from strongest to weakest, chosen by the Division I men’s basketball committee. The 1-seeds are the greatest teams in the country, the 2-seeds the next best, and so on.
While it is an immense deal for the teams playing in the tournament, the NCAA Tournament is also a big deal for millions of college basketball fans across the globe. Even people who do not know the first thing about college basketball participate in filling out a bracket. Every year, millions of people make their predictions for all 67 games of the tournament; however, nobody has EVER had a perfect bracket. There have been some close calls, but never a 100% correct bracket.
Last year, multi-billionaire Warren Buffett offered a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) to anyone who could predict the bracket perfectly. While this may seem like an amazing incentive for people to try their luck and make a bracket, it was next to impossible for someone to actually win the money. According to Sports Illustrated, the odds of filling out a perfect March Madness bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,777,808. In fact, per the National Weather Service, it is more likely for someone to be struck by lightning three times in his or her life than predicting a perfect bracket. Unsurprisingly, nobody came close to perfection. Countless upsets plagued brackets, which were truly impossible to predict. Villanova ended up winning the tournament, but it was 2-seeded Michigan State losing to 15-seeded Middle Tennessee State in the first round that put an end to most people’s hopes of striking it rich.
Last night, March 16, this year’s tournament action was kicked off with the Round of 64. Sixteen games were played throughout the day, with several upsets sending teams with high hopes back home. The biggest upset was the 12-seeded Middle Tennessee State beating Minnesota, a 5-seed by a score of 81-72. Also, 11-seeded Xavier took down 6-seeded Maryland, 76-65. There were also some very close games, with Notre Dame and Northwestern only winning their games by two points.
Tonight, March 17, the action continues with sixteen more games. Some of the games are expected to be blowouts (1-seed Kansas vs. 16-seed UC Davis), and some will likely come down to the last minute (8-seed Miami vs. 9-seed Michigan State). Every college basketball fan in the world is excited for what is to come later today. Interestingly, no 16-seed has ever beat a 1-seed, and it is not expected to happen this year, even after scares from the 1-seeds on the first day of the tournament. After the conclusion of tonight’s games, the Round of 32 will be set.
Of course, I filled out a bracket this year. After hours of debating and tinkering with different teams and different matchups, I, at last, decided on a final bracket. I picked 2-seeded Kentucky to upset 1-seeded Villanova in the Championship game. After the first night of action, my bracket is nearly perfect, with the only blemish being my incorrect selection of 9-seeded Vanderbilt to beat 8-seeded Northwestern. The game came down to the last shot, but Vanderbilt could not pull out the win, thus ending my chances of achieving a perfect bracket. However, I am still in very good shape overall and should come close to winning my pool with several of my friends.
It will be fun and gut-wrenching to watch the action unfold over the next several weeks, with plenty of upsets primed to happen, and I am very excited to see who will be crowned the champion of the NCAA on April 3rd.