March Madness, the very peak of Division I college basketball. The ritual performed at the end of the NCAA regular season, which decides the college basketball champion. The 64 teams chosen after the end of the season are placed into a tournament bracket to compete for the National Championship.
In 1939, the NCAA Basketball organization decided to take the top 16 teams from each region and place them in a tournament bracket for the championship. And, recently, a bracket challenge has been introduced to the fans of college basketball. Fans try and guess each round of the tournament bracket, and a “perfect bracket” results in a one billion dollar reward. Much like fantasy sports, the bracket challenge allows fans to interact and take stakes in games that otherwise wouldn’t matter to them. Investing in teams by picking if they will win or lose makes the entire tournament exciting, regardless of which team a fan actually roots for.
Unfortunately, brackets crack as surprise teams upset big names. The first two days of the tournament are usually enough to thin the competition for a perfect bracket, leaving a field of disparity in its wake.
In the Elite Eight, Dayton and Florida played for the winner of the Southern Bracket and their chance to the Final Four. Dayton, being the by far the underdog, had a rough run to the Elite Eight. Starting with the first big upset of the tournament against Ohio State. Shortly after Dayton’s miraculous victory over Syracuse made way for their game against Stanford, which resulted in a 10 point win over the California-based 10 seed.
Florida, on the other hand, easily soared through the bracket as everyone had expected. The top-seeded Gators were heavily favored in every matchup in their route to playing Dayton in the round of eight. Their play demonstrated their strength, and they won their first three tournament games by an average of 13 points. When the 11-seed Dayton finally took on the Gators, Florida again came out with a win, 62-52. The past three years, the Gators lost in the Elite Eight round, eliminating them from championship contention. This year, they have advanced to the Final Four, for the first time since winning the national championship in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007. With two more wins, Florida could claim the championship once again.
Over to the West bracket, Arizona and Wisconsin have their much-expected match for the Final Four position. Arizona, being the number 1 seed, was picked by nearly 60% of brackets to make it to the Final Four, so there’s no surprise at their appearance against Wisconsin. Wisconsin, as the 2nd seed, is a similar story to Florida, blowing past all the competition toward their chance at the Western Champions.
At the end of that matchup, it was Wisconsin who came out ahead. The Badgers were propelled by Frank Kaminsky, who had 28 of the team’s 64 points, including 6 of 10 overtime points. The win clinched a spot in the Final Four for Wisconsin, their first appearance since 2000. The Badgers have not won the national championship since 1941.
The casual college basketball fan likely had his bracket busted over a week ago. Teams like Florida and Wisconsin, however, are still chasing their dream, and that is something to remain excited about.
– Andrew Freeman, Contributing Writer