Photo courtesy of www.theathletic.com.
One word to describe March Madness: chaos. Started in 1939, March Madness is a men’s Division I college basketball tournament with 64 college teams battling it out until the championship. The teams, seeded by a committee based on their regular-season record and strength of schedule, go through the first two rounds which whittles the field from 64 to 16. When it gets down to the four named rounds, it gets intense. The best of the best are playing in the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and, finally, the National Championship, where one team is crowned the best in Men’s NCAA Division I College Basketball.
“Most huge sports events are just one big game with the same teams,” said sixth grader Braxton Peterson. “March Madness is the sixty-four best teams, and each team has a chance,” he said.
March Madness is fun and exciting because of the big upsets that usually occur each year. This year’s tournament has been no different as #15 seed Oral Roberts beat #2 Ohio State, #14 Abilene Christian upset #3 Texas, and #13 North Texas upended #4 Purdue.
“In the college football playoffs or the NFL and NBA playoffs, you are pretty sure you know who is going to win,” said seventh grader Reecie Hoben. “March Madness is different because many upsets have come into effect. You don’t always know who is going to win – it is a mystery.”
The upsets aren’t the only thing that makes the tournament exciting – there are also the online bracket challenges. There are many sites, such as ESPN, that offer users a chance to fill out an entire tournament bracket to predict each game and, ultimately, the national championship. Users can see where they rank with their brackets against other players around the world, and friends and family can make their own groups and compete against one another for money or just for fun. According to sportingnews.com, there has never been a perfect bracket. In fact, the odds of completing a perfect bracket are just one in 9.2 quintillion.
Currently, seventh grader Aidan Brown is in the top 20,000 out of all 14.7 million ESPN user brackets.
“I am feeling great about my bracket since at one point I was in 3,900th place in the ESPN Bracket Challenge, but since one of my teams lost that I had winning, I dropped down to 19,000th place. I’m overall feeling pretty good about the teams that I have winning [the rest of the way].”
Brown has a bunch of upsets predicted that eventually happened. In the second round, he had #8 seed Loyola Chicago upsetting #1 seed Illinois, #12 Oregon State taking out #4 Oklahoma State, and #11 Syracuse ousting #3 West Virginia. Many of these upsets were not expected and helped Brown climb into the top echelon of the ESPN Bracket Challenge.
Ultimately, choosing the correct Final Four and eventual champion is the goal as there are so many upsets in the earlier rounds. This year’s Final Four, which will be played on Saturday, April 3, includes #1 Gonzaga against #11 UCLA and #1 Baylor facing off against #2 Houston. So, even after all of the upsets, the Final Four is still pretty much “chalk,” with only #11 UCLA the lone upset making it to the semifinal round. Many students have one of these teams taking home the 2021 title.
“I have Gonzaga winning because they really have a great offense and defense, and I do not think anybody has a chance to stop them,” said seventh grader James Carpenter.
“I have Houston winning because they have a monster defense and have allowed not that many points, but still have a productive offense and that is what can lead them to win,” said Brown.
Others, however, picked a team that has already bowed out.
“[Number two seed] Alabama is a comeback team, and I wanted to pick a team that was good but not the favorite,” said Peterson.
Which team will be crowned champion? Tune in to CBS on April 3 to see which two teams will face off for the championship on Monday night, April 5.