Oh man, we get so amped this time of year. And it’s not because we’re a bunch of inveterate gamblers. It’s because you simply can’t beat the level of competition, intensity, or do-or-die athletic heroism that is March Madness. Sure, the best of the best are on their way to NBA and WNBA stardom. They’ll enjoy a lifetime in the public eye. But the vast majority of these kids are living their dream right here, right now, in front of the cameras, under the bright lights, in the shadow of a spectacular history, bidding for the coveted NCAA Championship Tournament title. We find the whole thing inspiring, thrilling, and maybe even a little poetic.
Also, we hate commercials, and the channel-surfing insanity of those first four tournament days means never having to sit through a car ad. You’ve got wall-to-wall action across four channels from noon to midnight … if you’re a sports fan, there truly is nothing like it. Preset your stations, prep your gorge-worthy munchies, and get ready to bounce between blowouts and buzzer-beaters for a few of the most adrenalizing days of the year.
Rounds One and Two of the men’s 2018 tourney run March 15–18. The women’s first two rounds run March 16–19. Get your brackets ready and find a good excuse for half-assing your work. March Madness is here.
1. Kansas City, Missouri, has hosted the Final Four more times than any other city, providing the forum 10 different times since the tournament’s 1939 inception. You can be forgiven for forgetting this fact, since they haven’t hosted in 30 years. In the meantime, Indianapolis has made up a ton of ground, hosting all seven of its tourney finals from 1980 to present day. Indianapolis, now home to NCAA HQ, is officially designated to host every five years. They’ll pull out of a tie with New York City and into sole possession of second place when they host the 2021 Final Four.
2. While Indianapolis gets to have all the fun, whole states have never hosted even a single tournament game. Among them, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
3. Apparently, if you want to host a game, it helps to have a huge facility. Final Four arenas must, by NCAA mandate, hold at least a 70,000 seat capacity. The largest facility ever to host a Final Four is AT&T Stadium in Texas, which seated 80,000 fans for the Big Dance in 2014.
4. Harvard holds a lot of records when it comes to academics, but the one it holds in tournament history is less distinguished. The university owns the single longest drought between appearances, earning a pass to March Madness in 1946 then failing to appear in the tournament for the next 66 seasons. It finally got back on track by winning the Ivy League division in the 2011–12 season.
5. The number of vasectomy procedures performed on men spikes notably in advance of March Madness. This is not a coincidence. For men who are anxious about going under the knife, the consolation is two to three days of guilt-free basketball binge-watching while sitting on a frozen doughnut.
6. Up to 20% of Americans will fill out pools this year, resulting in millions of distracted workers and, according to U.S. News & World Report, $4 billion in lost productivity.
7. As long as you’re being unproductive at work, you might as well make a few savvy picks in your pool. If you want to look super-smart, bear in mind that
the most common upset — historically speaking — has been a No. 12 seed over a No. 5 seed. Pick a few "twelves" and look like a prognosticating genius, at least in the first round. After that, you’re on your own.
8. The tournament allows no ties. This fact was particularly consequential (and time consuming) in both 1956 and 1961, two years in which a game was decided in quadruple overtime. In 1956, the Golden Griffins of Canisius College needed four extra frames to upset heavily-favored North Carolina State in the opening round. In 1961, St. Joseph’s Hawks bested the University of Utah in quadruple overtime in the consolation match of that year’s Final Four.
9. Only three men have won an NCAA championship as both player and coach: Joe. B. Hall at Kentucky, Bob Knight at Ohio State and Indiana, and Dean Smith at Kansas and North Carolina.
10. Even rarer still is the feat that only Larry Brown has achieved. In 1988, he coached the Kansas Jayhawks to an NCAA title. When he led the Detroit Pistons to an NBA title in 2004, he became the only coach to claim both trophies. He still holds that singular distinction.
11. If you’ve every considered filling out your bracket based entirely on seeding, 2008 was your year. This was the only tournament that saw all four No. 1 seeds advancing to the Final Four: Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Memphis showed down before Kansas topped Memphis to claim the net.
12. How many perfect seasons have there been in NCAA history? Seven teams have gone undefeated in the regular season and the tournament to claim a perfect title. Of course, four of those seven teams were UCLA, which holds the men’s all-time record with 11 titles, 10 of them under legendary coach John Wooden.
13. It’s lonely out there in Evanston, Illinois. The Power-6 is comprised of the top athletic conferences in NCAA basketball — ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC. Northwestern University is the only college in all six divisions that has never made a tournament appearance. That’s pretty ironic considering Evanston was the site of the first Final Four back in 1939.
14. Though the men’s tournament got its start during World War II, the women’s tournament would be another four decades in the making. At first a low-profile tournament, the women’s tourney was governed from ’72 to ’82 by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). The NCAA wrested control of the tournament away from the AIAW to produce the inaugural 1981–82 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. That first year, Louisiana Tech bested Cheyney State at the Norfolk Scope in Virginia.
15. The popularity of the women’s tournament has soared over the last two decades, thanks in part to staggering game broadcasts to prevent scheduling conflicts with the men’s tournament, and thanks in larger part to the insane and singular dominance of the UConn Huskies. Under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have become a perennial entrant into the Final Four, making 18 appearance for 11 titles. They appeared in the last 10 consecutive Big Dances.
15. Perhaps even more impressive, the Tennessee Lady Vols have never missed a bracket. They have competed in the NCAA Women’s Division I Tournament every year since its 1982 inauguration.
17. In 1966, at the height of the Civil Rights era, the heavily-favored, all-white Kentucky team was stunned by the African American starting five from Texas Western. The shocking upset forever transformed the game of basketball, both at the college level and beyond.
18. Speaking of upsets, while a No. 16 seed has never knocked off a No. 1 seed, No. 2 seeds don’t get the same guarantee. Since the tournament moved to 64 teams in 1985, eight No. 15 seeds have stunned their first round opponents to advance to the second round. A particularly wild year, 2012, witnessed two No. 2 seeds going down to open the tourney:
- Richmond over Syracuse, 73–69 (1991)
- Santa Clara over Arizona, 64–61 (1993)
- Coppin State over South Carolina, 78–65 (1997)
- Hampton over Iowa State, 58–57 (2001)
- Norfolk State over Missouri, 86–84 (2012)
- Lehigh over Duke, 75–70 (2012)
- Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown 78–65 (2013)
- Middle Tennessee over Michigan State, 90–81 (2016)
19. The last team to win two consecutive tournaments was Duke, which pulled off the feat of dominance in 1991 and 1992. Before that, the last team to do it was UCLA, which notched an incredible seven titles in a row between 1967 and 1973.
20. Only one man has ever been named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in three consecutive years. Lew Alcindor led his UCLA Bruins to three of those above-noted consecutive victories (1967–69) before going on to an extraordinary pro career. Of course, you know him better as NBA Hall of Famer and outspoken social critic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
21. Though Alcindor won this recognition in three consecutive seasons, the real record belongs to UConn Huskies legend Breanna Stewart, who earned the MOP award while leading her team to four consecutive NCAA Women’s Division titles (2013–16). She would go on to be 2016’s No. 1 overall draft pick for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.
If these Fun Facts are so fun that you feel like you need more, check out our trivia stacks from tournaments passed. These are at least as fun:
And with that, good luck to all competitors, spectators, alumni, and bracketologists!