Madness, March Madness that is, begins today as the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 Men’s Tournament gets under way.
A much-anticipated event among hoops aficionados, the tournament gathers the best collegiate teams in the United States currently and provides a preview of potential talents who could well be future stars in the National Basketball Association.
In the tournament, champions from 31 Division I conferences scattered all over the United States are short-listed for automatic bids. Thirty-seven teams/schools, chosen by the Selection Committee of the US NCAA, meanwhile, are given “at-large berths.” At-large teams are squads that did not win their conference tournament but are selected nonetheless based on, among other things, their record, ranking and strength of schedule.
Once the 68-team field is complete, it is divided into four regions — this year it is South, West, East and Midwest — and bracketed. Each team is seeded as deemed appropriate by a committee within its region. After an initial four games between eight lower-seeded teams, the tournament takes place over the course of three weekends, at predetermined neutral sites around the US. Lower-seeded teams are placed in the bracket against higher-seeded teams. The field is weeded out every round of single elimination — from a Round of 64, to a Round of 32, to a “Sweet Sixteen,” to an “Elite Eight,” to a “Final Four.” The Final Four, which will come from each region, battle it out for a place in the national championship.
In the South Regional, the Virginia Cavaliers (31-2) are number one seeds and comes in to the tournament fresh from their conquest of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) title. They will initially be facing Madness-debuting University of Maryland-Baltimore County (16th, America East). Joining the Cavaliers in the top half of the South bracket are Cincinnati (2nd, ACC), Tennessee (3rd, Southeastern Conference), Arizona (4th, Pac-12 Conference), Kentucky (5th, Southeastern Conference), Miami FL (6th, ACC), Nevada (7th, Mountain West Conference) and Creighton (8th, Big East). Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches in this bracket will be played in Atlanta Georgia.
Out in the West Regional, Big East’s Xavier Musketeers (28-5) are the top seeds and set to play first the winner between NC Central and Texas Southern in the first four. Other top seed in the West are defending national champion North Carolina (2nd, ACC), Michigan (3rd, Big Ten), Gonzaga (4th, West Coast Conference), Ohio State (5th, Big Ten), Houston (6th, ACC), Texas A&M (7th, Southeastern Conference) and Missouri (8th, SEC). Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches in this bracket will be played in Los Angeles, California.
The East Regional will have the Big East Villanova Wildcats (30-4) as the top seed and who will be facing the winner between LIU Brooklyn and Radford in the first four. Joining Villanova in the top half of the bracket are Purdue (2nd, Big Ten), Texas Tech (3rd, Big 12), Wichita St., (4th, American Conference), West Virginia (5th, Big 12), Florida (6th, Southeastern Conference, Arkansas (7th, SEC) and Virginia Tech (8th, ACC). Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches in this bracket will be played in Boston, Massachusetts.
In the Midwest Regional the Kansas Jayhawks (27-7) are the top seeds and they will be facing first the University of Pennsylvania (16th). Other top seeds in the bracket are Duke (2nd, ACC), Michigan State (3rd, Big Ten), Auburn (4th, Southeastern Conference), Clemson (5th, ACC), TCU (6th, Big 12), Rhode Island (7th, Atlantic 10) and Seton Hall (8th, Big East). Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches in this bracket will be played in Omaha, Nebraska.
The March Madness tournament ends at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Madness in a win-or-go home format is upon us basketball fans alright. Enjoy!
March Madness matches are shown live over ESPN5. Check the listings for schedules.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.