Each March, sports fans make brackets, bet money, and create fantasy leagues with friends and family for one of America’s most popular and intriguing sports tournaments: March Madness. Although NCAA basketball may not have the same popularity as professional leagues, there are still reasons to get excited for the “madness,” even if you’re not a major fan.
For starters, the tournament kicks off today and is comprised of the top 64 college basketball teams in America, all of whom were seeded in a bracket this past Sunday evening. The bracket is split up into four divisions: the East, West, Midwest, and South, based on the college’s location. The brackets include 16 teams each, and they are seeded based on regular season standings. Over the next week and a half, single elimination games will be played, eventually narrowing down to the Final Four. The Final Four includes the four teams remaining in the tournament, with the semifinals held on April 1, and the national championship on April 3.
The fact that this tournament is based on single elimination games, rather than 5 or 7 game series, which are the standard in professional leagues such as the MLB, NHL, and NBA, is arguably the most intriguing aspect of this competition. This is why brackets are so interesting to make. One game can either make or break a majority of your predictions. For example, Michigan State was a pick as a 2016 championship favorite by several experts and avid fans across the country, being a #2 seed. However, the team had a quick first round exit to #15 seed Middle Tennessee State, losing 81-90. Upsets like these show not only the intense competition involved, but also the belief that each team has in them to make it all the way.
While upsets are common, there are a handful of teams which look like they could dominate throughout the entire tournament, and win a possible championship. Although there hasn’t been a team which has won back-to-back titles since the Florida Gators in 2006-2007, 2016 champion Villanova looks like yet another dominating force. The Wildcats easily gained possession of the #1 seed in the East with a 30-3 regular season record, and through the leadership of veterans in Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, a second consecutive Final Four appearance would not be shocking. According to cbssports.com, Duke and Kansas are also heavily favored to win it all. Having won five titles, Duke remains a major threat with the leadership of long-time head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Kansas also looks poised for a major run with veteran point guard Frank Mason III leading the way, as well as rising star Josh Jackson, who in a few years could be a household name in the NBA.
Although it is generally safe to pick the top seeds while assembling brackets, there are a few matchups which could see a significant upset. However, one matchup that has very high underdog potential features #10 seed Wichita State against #7 Dayton in the South. Wichita State went 30-4 throughout the regular season, and many experts have argued that they simply have too much talent to be in a seed as high as #10. Although they would have a tough path ahead of them (if they beat Dayton), this is a team which is appearing for its sixth consecutive year in the tournament, with a highly regarded experienced group of veterans to lead the way.
Overall, all 63 matchups will bring excitement and new challenges for every player and team alike. While some matchups look to be a blowout and easily favor the top seed, others could very well defy all odds and give fans a new perspective. Even if you’re the most casual sports fan, this is still a tournament to get excited for, as past results have proved that anything is possible.