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March Madness: A guide to the US college basketball tournament

It’s that time of year again. Millions of basketball fans across the United States are gearing up for several weeks of fast-paced competition to crown the next men’s basketball champions.

Organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which administers college athletics in the US, the annual tournament – known as March Madness – officially kicks off later this week.

It is one of the most anticipated sporting events in the US, and beyond 18 million people tuned in to watch last year’s finals, in which the Kansas Jayhawks defeated the North Carolina Tarheels.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the games.

How are the teams selected?

The winners of the post-season tournaments in each of the 32 Division 1 basketball conferences receive what is known as an automatic bid to the March Madness national tournament.

The NCAA Selection Committee then invites 36 teams that do not automatically qualify to participate.

How many teams are participating?

Sixty-eight teams will compete in the single-elimination tournament. But before the first round begins, four teams will be divided into what’s called the “First Four”: a play-in competition that officially kicks off the tournament starting Tuesday.

“The First Four consists of eight teams – the four lowest-ranked automatic qualifiers and the four lowest-ranked at-large teams,” according to the NCAA. explains on its website. Those rankings are determined by the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, which numbers the teams from one to 68.

Once the first four are complete, 64 teams will advance to the first round of the tournament, which begins on Thursday. Competitions are scheduled for several US states, including Florida, California and New York.

What is a brace?

After ranking the teams, the NCAA selection committee compiles the so-called tournament bracket.

The bracket is essentially the March Madness schedule: it lists the opening round matchups based on rank and geographic location. (The tournament is divided into four regions: South, Midwest, East, and West.)

These match-ups, in turn, determine the path each team must take to reach the championship game.

In 2022 more than 36 million people said they planned to fill out a series, with predictions for which teams they hoped to advance in the tournament, according to data company Statista.

There are still two days to go complete one for this year’s tournament.

Why is the tournament called March Madness?

According to the NCAA, the nickname was first used in 1939—the same year that the inaugural Division 1 men’s basketball tournament was held—by Henry V Porter, an Illinois high school official.

“But the term didn’t make its way into the NCAA tournament until CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger (who used to be a sportswriter in Chicago) used it while covering the 1982 tournament,” the association said. say.

“The term has since been synonymous with the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.”

Who are the teams to beat this year?

Four teams currently rank first in their respective regional divisions: Kansas, Alabama, Houston and Purdue.

Oddsmakers agree with the NCAA selection committee that the No. 1 seeds are the favorites — Houston at plus-500, Alabama at plus-800, Kansas at plus-1,000 and Purdue at plus-1,200.

According to CBS Sports“a No. 1 seed has won the NCAA Tournament series in six of the past seven years”.

Texas Southern players save their ticket to March Madness by beating Grambling State on March 11, 2023 (AP Photo (Butch Dill/AP Photo)

Are surprises expected?

Part of the fun of March Madness is the unexpected displays and David versus Goliath moments the tournament delivers each year. And most experts are betting that 2023 will be no exception.

“We know there will be setbacks,” said John Gasaway and Matt Eisenberg of ESPN recently wrote as they unveiled their “Giant Killers” model, which looks at possible distortions in games where teams are separated by at least five starting points.

According to their calculations, the No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams have the highest chance of an upset, with a 43 percent chance of beating the No. 5 team Saint Mary’s Gaels in the first round.

“A classic 12-over-5 surprise. Or would it be? The model gives VCU something akin to a coin flip opportunity against Saint Mary’s,” said Gasaway and Eisenberg.

CBS Sports also predicted that the 10th seed Trojans from the University of Southern California will defeat No. 7 Michigan State in the first round of the East region.

When are the men’s semi-finals and championship matches?

The final four remaining teams will face each other on April 1 in Houston, Texas, in the semifinals – known as the Final Four. If they win, they’ll earn a spot in the championship game on April 3.

South Carolina's Aliyah Boston holds up the 2023 conference championship trophy.
South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston holds up their trophy after defeating Tennessee 74-58 to win the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament championship game on March 5, 2023 (Mic Smith/AP Photo)

Does the NCAA also host a women’s tournament?

Absolute. Among the women, South Carolina, Indiana, Virginia Tech and Stanford are the top four seed in this year’s competition.

The South Carolina Gamecocks are a heavy favorite to become the first repeat winner in the women’s tournament since 2016, when the University of Connecticut clinched its fourth straight national championship.

How can I watch?

Every match of the women’s tournament will be available on the ESPN networks or via streaming, with fans encouraged to visit the “Watch” tab on the ESPN sites.

Every game of the men’s tournament will be broadcast on US television, either on CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV and their digital platforms. CBS will carry the Final Four semifinals and national title game this year.

March Madness is also available internationally on other channels and streaming services, including TSN in Canada and Kayo Sports and Foxtel in Australia.