The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness, has evolved over time to become one of the most popular and exciting sporting events in the world. The tournament began in 1939 with just eight teams, and it has grown significantly over the years. Here’s a brief history of the evolution of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and how it arrived at the current format of 68 teams:
1939-1950: The tournament starts with just eight teams, and it takes place over just two weekends.
1951-1974: The tournament expands to 16 teams, and it’s still played over two weekends.
1975-1978: The tournament expands again, this time to 32 teams, and it’s played over three weekends.
1979-1982: The tournament expands to 40 teams, and it’s played over four weekends.
1983-2000: The tournament expands to 64 teams, and it’s still played over four weekends. This format became known as “March Madness.”
2001-2010: The tournament expands to 65 teams, with the addition of a play-in game between the two lowest-seeded teams. This game determines the final team to enter the field of 64.
2011-present: The tournament expands again to 68 teams, with the addition of three more play-in games. The play-in games now include four of the lowest-seeded teams, and they determine the final four teams to enter the field of 64. These four play-in games are now known as the First Four.
As you can imagine TV ratings have been enormous on this spectacle and are only second behind the Super Bowl when comparing game-for-game.
So, in summary, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has grown from just eight teams in 1939 to 68 teams today. Along the way, it has expanded in stages, with the most recent expansion in 2011 adding the First Four play-in games and bringing the total number of teams to 68. The evolution of the tournament has helped to make March Madness one of the most exciting and unpredictable events in all of sports.
Along the way, people have created fun ways to participate in the madness. Fun office pools or real money March Madness Bracket contests have been commonplace for decades. These contests utilize a combo of skill and luck. This is because there is almost always a Cinderella team that makes it deep into the tournament and eliminates several heavy favorites along the way.