Get your brackets ready! It's that time of the year again: The NCAA basketball tournaments are just around the corner.
March Madness, as the NCAA basketball tournament is colloquially called, is a competition between the best teams in the NCAA Division I level. Played in a single-elimination bracket form, the competition often spurs betting pools with winners trying to best predict who will make it to the Final Four and win the championship.
This is also the first year that the women's tournament will take on the "March Madness" branding following recommendations presented in an external review of NCAA gender equity issues.
To get you into the spirit, here are some fun facts about the tournament over the years:
How has COVID impacted March Madness?
Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NCAA to cancel that year's tournaments. Vaccines, lowering case numbers, and relaxed pandemic protocols mean that this year's tournaments will start to look more normal.
According to the NCAA, teams will still have to follow local COVID guidelines, and it will require COVID testing for players and team staff before each tournament. Players who are fully vaccinated, or those who have documentation of a COVID-19 infection within the previous 90 days, can request testing exemption.
There are other pre-pandemic operating procedures that are returning: the First Four games will take course over two days instead of one; the tournament will feature multiple host cities for the first and second rounds and regional semis/finals (as opposed to keeping the entire tournament in a singular area); and stadiums will have no capacity restrictions, if local guidelines allow as such.
The NCAA said that spectators must still adhere to local pandemic regulations.
When did March Madness start?
March Madness began 82 years ago and has been held every year, except for the 2019-2020 season. Back in 1939, the Oregon Ducks were victorious against only eight teams. The tournament kept expanding until 1985 when the 64-team tournament format was established. More teams were added in the 2000s to bring a total of 68 teams to the tournament.
The women's tournament is also expanding to 68 teams this year.
History behind March Madness name
The NCAA said the name was traced back to Illinois high school official Henry V. Porter who used the phrase in 1939. The name didn’t make it to the tournament until CBS broadcaster and former Chicago sportswriter Brent Musburger used the phrase during coverage of the 1982 tournament.
What are the odds of a perfect bracket?
For many, making a solid bracket may lead you to some cash or some serious bragging rights among friends or family.
But some luck is involved too -- and picking the perfect bracket is nearly impossible.
According to the NCAA, the chances of having a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (9 quintillion) if you guess or flip a coin. For those who know a bit more about basketball your chances increase to 1 in 120.2 billion.
In previous years, billionaire Warren Buffet has offered $1 billion to anyone who had a perfect bracket. No one claimed the prize when he offered it in 2014. He even offered $1 million a year to any of his employees who correctly predicted which teams made it into the Sweet 16 of the men’s tournament. However, no one could even guess that.
Biggest March Madness upsets in history
In 2018, 16-seed University of Maryland – Baltimore County upset 1-seed Virginia with a 74-54 win. It was the first time in tournament history that a 16-seed beat a 1-seed. It instantly became one of the greatest upsets in March Madness history.
Just one year later, Virginia would beat Texas Tech in overtime to win the 2019 NCAA championship.
The biggest women's upset happened in 1998 when 16-seed Harvard ousted 1-seed Stanford with a 71-67 win on Stanford's home court. Last year, 13-seed Wright State defeated 4-seed Arkansas 66-62.
Biggest March Madness scorers in history
Christian Laettner, who played for Duke, is the NCAA tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 407 points. Only nine players have more than 300 points in March Madness.
Notre Dame’s Austin Carr is not among the nine top scorers, but he holds the NCAA tournament’s single-game scoring record with 61 points in a 1970 game against Ohio.
Lorri Bauman, who played for Drake, holds the women's record for most-points scored during a single tournament game, winning 50 points in 1982 against Maryland.
NCAA Tournament appearances and wins
Kentucky has appeared 58 times in the tournament and has won 129 NCAA men's tournament games. North Carolina follows Kentucky in both categories with 50 tournament appearances and 126 tournament wins.
Kentucky only falls behind UCLA for the number of NCAA champion wins. UCLA has 11 championship wins compared to Kentucky’s eight wins.
For the women's tournament, Tennessee has the longest tournament appearance streak, having made all 39 tournaments. It is also the team with the second most championship titles (having won eight), only falling behind Connecticut with 11 titles.