The NCAA bracket was announced on Sunday, and with the 64-team tournament set to get underway on Thursday, here is a complete guide to all you need to know.
March Madness essentially determines the men’s college basketball champion, but it has evolved into much more than a mere sporting event over the years and it has millions of Americans and fans around the world gripped each year.
How it works
March Madness is a knock-out tournament between 64 men’s college basketball teams. The tournament runs from March 17 to April 6, with the championship game bringing proceedings to a conclusion.
Teams have qualified for the tournament in two ways, they have either won their conference tournaments or have been selected by the NCAA selection committee based on who they think deserves to participate.
After the ‘play-in round’ gets things started to eliminate four of the lower-ranked teams, 64 teams then play each other with winners progressing and the losers sent packing.
The field goes through five stages with the numbers dwindling, it goes to 32 teams, then to the ‘Sweet 16′, to the ‘Elite 8′, the ‘Final Four’ and then finally the championship game.
Selection Sunday – March 15
First Round – March 17-18
Second Round (round of 64) – March 19-20
Third Round (round of 32) – March 21-22
Sweet 16 – March 26-27
Elite Eight – March 28-29
Final Four – April 4
National Championship Game – April 6
Watch live: Click here to watch online with NCAA March Madness Live. (USA)
Watch live: Click here to watch on BT Sport online! (UK) – A selection of games will be shown by BT Sport/ESPN throughout the tournament.
What makes March Madness so ‘mad’
Before the tournament, the selection committee ranks the teams from best to worst. Teams are given seedings in their respective regions in a bid to keep the competitive balance which in turn results in the top teams facing each other deeper into the tournament.
The competition is an incredibly big deal, not only for the fact that it creates so many upsets and ‘Cinderella stories’, but also because it is a basketball-fest for three weeks, particularly in the early stages when multiple games are played at the same time and others start immediately after the last has finished.
Once the teams, numbers and all the glamour has been processed, it is a pretty special tournament to follow and to give you an indication of how big it is, an estimated 40 million people will fill out brackets this year and $9 billion worth of bets will be placed.
Kentucky head into the tournament unbeaten and naturally they are widely regarded as the favourites before tip-off and need just six more wins to complete the perfect season. Several of their players are expected to go on and make it into the NBA, and with coach John Calipari leading the charge, they are in safe hands.
The likes of Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova and Virginia will all likely be threats, but the beauty of the tournament is that any favourite can be knocked out at any stage in any given game. UConn, a seventh seed, won the tournament last year.
However, the safe money would be on Kentucky to cope with the pressure on their shoulders and to protect their undefeated record, going on to seal an historic championship win.