The NCAA had to cancel their annual March Madness tournament in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in 2021, the event is back, and college basketball fans will be eagerly awaiting for tournament action to get underway. NCAA conference tournaments will tide them over until the official bracket is released on Selection Sunday, but after a year-long hiatus from all the March Madness, fans are surely chomping at the bit to get this thing started.
For decades, March Madness has, fittingly, been the pinnacle of sports in March. It wasn’t always that way, as the tournament did come from rather humble beginnings and wasn’t even the first postseason tournament of its kind. But the appetite for bracket busters and Cinderella stories has made the NCAA Tournament appointment viewing.
Here’s a brief history of March Madness and an overview of what to know before the 2021 NCAA Tournament gets underway.
What is March Madness and when did it start?
March Madness is the yearly college basketball tournament held by the NCAA that spans from mid-March to early April. The tournament began with eight teams playing against one another in 1939, where Oregon beat Ohio State to take home the first tournament title.
Over the years, the tournament grew from an eight-team event to 16 in 1951. In 1975, it doubled to 32 before doubling again to 64 in 1985. Currently, 68 teams make it into the tournament with eight teams participating in play-in games to make the official first-round field of 64.
March Madness actually wasn’t the first postseason college basketball tournament to come around. The National Invitational Tournament (NIT) began a year earlier in 1938, and while that was the more popular tournament for a bit, March Madness has long since overtaken it as the top college basketball tournament.
Why is it called March Madness?
The term “March Madness” was first used in 1939 when Illinois high school official Henry V. Porter referred to the original eight-team tournament by that moniker.
“A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel,” Porter wrote in “Illinois High School Athlete” magazine, per Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
However, the term didn’t become associated with the NCAA Tournament until 1982, when CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger used it during his coverage of the tournament. Musburger claims that he got the term from car dealership commercials he saw while broadcasting the Illinois state high school basketball tournament. He started using it during those games and eventually brought it over to CBS.
When is the NCAA Tournament in 2021?
The 2021 NCAA Tournament will start on Thursday, March 18 at 4 p.m. ET when the play-in games begin. These games, known as the “First Four” are a series of play-in games that have been held since 2011. The eight teams in those contests will compete for four spots in the official 64-team field.
From there, first and second-round tournament play will run from Friday, March 19 to Monday, March 22. The second weekend of play, consisting of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups, will run from Saturday, March 27 to Tuesday, March 30.
And to cap things off, the Final Four will be held on Saturday, April 3 with the NCAA championship game taking place at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, April 5.
All in all, that amounts to about two-and-a-half weeks of top-tier college basketball action.
When do the March Madness brackets come out?
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on Sunday, March 14 at 6 p.m. ET during a two-hour selection show on CBS. That day, known as “Selection Sunday”, will set the bracket matchups for the first-round matchups. Once those matchups are set, brackets with all the first-round matchups filled in will be readily available to print out.
If you can’t wait that long to get your bracket, there are blank brackets available that can be printed at any time. These won’t have the teams filled in on them yet, but you can add them once the tournament participants are announced on Selection Sunday.
Who won March Madness in 2019?
In 2019, the Virginia Cavaliers were able to win their first NCAA tournament title. Just one year after being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the history of the tournament, coach Tony Bennett was able to lead Virginia to a 29-3 regular season and another one seed.
The Cavs played their trademark brand of solid defense in their wins over Gardner Webb, Oklahoma, and Oregon State. In the Elite Eight, they knocked off Purdue by five points before winning a thrilling Final Four matchup 63-62 against Auburn thanks to three last-second free throws made by Kyle Guy. They went toe-to-toe with No. 3 seed Texas Tech in the Championship Game but were able to win 85-77 in overtime.
During their run to the title, Virginia relied heavily on Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Ty Jerome to lead them to victory. Guy averaged 15.4 points per game, Hunter averaged 15.2, and Jerome had 13.6 as the team’s third double-digit scorer. They combined for 67 of Virginia’s 85 points in the Championship Game. Hunter went on to be the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft while Jerome was selected 24th overall that year. Guy was the last of the three drafted with the 55th selection in ’19.
Which team has the most NCAA basketball championships?
UCLA has the most NCAA basketball championships by a wide margin with 11. They are one of just 15 teams to have won the tournament multiple times, and 10 of their wins came in a 12-year span under legendary coach John Wooden. They produced countless pros during that span which most notably included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, who were the No. 1 picks in the 1969 and 1971 NBA Drafts respectively.
Other notable blue bloods like Kentucky, North Carolina, and Duke have all captured five or more NCAA titles, but some of the other schools to win multiple championships may surprise you.
* Louisville’s 2013 NCAA title was vacated as a result of a 2015 investigation about improper benefits given by then-Director of Basketball Operations Andre McGee to prospective and former Louisville players.