More Fun Facts About March Madness

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What are the odds of getting your NCAA bracket exactly right? Well, they're not too good.

Frankly, you have a better chance of making 10 half-court shots in row, which is to say that it ain't gonna happen. But don't let that stop you from dropping a few bucks into your office pool. The tournament is a ton of fun even if you can't achieve perfection. And in the interests of highlighting some of the things that make March Madness so much fun, here are a few trivial tidbits for your tourney time consumption.

1. In 2015, for the first time ever, March Madness referees used a new high tech whistle that can stop the play clock automatically. The new device cuts down on time-lag between the whistle and the stoppage of play, adding roughly 30 seconds of playing time to each game. If you've ever watched the last 30 seconds of a tournament game, you know just how consequential this time can be!

2. The NCAA Tournament was first broadcast on television in 1969. Between 1969 and 1981, the NBC network owned exclusive rights to the broadcast. The next year, CBS took over coverage and, today, shares broadcast rights with Turner sports. You can keep up with all the action by flipping between four separate channels (CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV) during those crazy first rounds of the tournament.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes coach Harold Olsen came up with the idea of the “Big Dance,” kicking off the first NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1939.

4. Instant replay was used for the first time in 1986. It was intended to correct time clock and scoring disputes. Today, it is also invoked for 3-pointers, shot clock violations, buzzer-beaters, and any other game-time situations that might otherwise leave referees scratching their heads.

5. Henry V. Porter first coined the phrase “March Madness” in a 1939 essay. He suggested that “a little March Madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.” The NCAA acquired the legal rights to the highly profitable phrase in 1996.

Check our our original 25 Fun Facts about March Madness.

6. The home team enjoys the surprising privilege of choosing the kind of ball to be used during game play. Most college teams prepare for this condition by practicing with their opponent's make and model of ball. If you ask the players, the impact of this rule is actually pretty significant. According to senior UCLA point guard Bryce Alford, "It might not seem like a whole lot, but when you're a shooter, when you're a guy who has the ball in their hands a lot, it's difficult to get into a rhythm when you're switching balls every other game.”

7. As of the 2015-2016 season, there were roughly 5,472 men and 4,990 women competing in NCAA Division I basketball.

8. Live by the 3-pointer—die by the 3-pointer! Of the 351 Division I teams competing in 2017, only 10% of those that shoot and make the most 3 pointers will make it onto your bracket. This ultimately means that the vast majority of field goal-happy teams won't make the NCAA tournament. Bottom line? If you're going to shoot it from behind the line, you had better make it. To the point, your team's odds of making the Dance are almost as good if you have a really good shot-blocker or your team makes fewer turnovers than your opponent. As it happens, your team's odds of getting in the NCAA tournament almost double when you have the most 2-pointers!

9. If you were watching the tournament in the years between 1967 and 1976, you would have seen absolutely no dunking. The technique was banned for a decade. Some of the game's more conservative purists thought of dunking as an inferior way of nabbing two points. For instance, Kansas basketball coach Phog Allen once wrote “Dunking does not display basketball skill--only height advantage.” But of course, dunking is now an essential part of the game, mostly because it's so much fun to watch.

10. Since the start of the new millennium, the teams that went on to win a men's basketball NCAA Tournament Championship have not lost more than 9 regular season games.

11. The game isn't the only thing that's changed over the years. The fashions have shifted too. Over the course of the tournament's history, men's basketball shorts have grown longer and baggier. Legend has it that this evolution was sparked, like so many others, by the great Michael Jordan. Upon his arrival in the NBA, His Airness insisted on wearing his UNC game shorts underneath his Bulls uniform. The tightness of the layered uniform left little to the imagination so MJ asked Champion apparel to fashion a pair of longer, baggier shorts. The impact was monumental, and perhaps most notable in the NCAA tournament with the early ‘90s emergence of Michigan's flashy Fab Five.

12. Physical Education teacher James Naismith is often credited with inventing the game that now generates so much excitement every March. History tells us that in 1891, Naismith used a soccer ball and peach basket to forge the innovation in the YMCA gym where he was employed. Two years later, he replaced the fruit vessel with an iron hoop and a miniature hammock. If you were fortunate enough to score, you had to go up there and retrieve the ball from said hammock. A decade later, open-ended nets were invented, cutting down significantly on the use of ladders in the game.

13. Naismith's invention took hold pretty quickly. The first college basketball game was played on January 18th, 1896, pitting five University of Iowa players against five from the University of Chicago. The final result? An exhilarating 15 to 12 victory for Chicago.

14. Though NCAA tournament betting will net roughly $100 million for Las Vegas casinos, Betfirm say this accounts for a mere 1% of all money gambled on the tournament. March Madness ranks second only to the Super Bowl among gambling holidays.

15. Heading into the 2017 tournament, Northwestern University has never previously made the bracket. This marks the first year in the tournament for the private research university from Illinois. They make their Dance debut with an 8th seed in the West.

16. Holy Cross is the smallest school ever to win an NCAA title. The 1947 champs enroll just under 3000 students today.

Rule Changes Over the Years

As long as we're tossing out trivia…

With all the TV cameras, product sponsorships, and NBA scouts on hand, it's pretty obvious that the tournament has changed much since its humble beginnings. But it's more than the fanfare that has evolved. The rules of the game are also ever-changing.

According to CBS Sports, “The way it works is, every two years the NCAA has a chance to adopt big changes to its rule-book. (That's why we had the change from a 35-second to a 30-second shot clock last season, for instance.) But it's a non-rules change year, in fact, so widespread legislation isn't on the table.”

In light of the almost constant rule-tweaking, we took a look back at some of the now-extinct rules of the game. Thanks to Orangehoops for providing this valuable resource. We hope this gives you a greater appreciation for the way the game has advanced over more than a century of court drama:

1900-1901: A dribbler may not shoot for a field goal and may dribble only once, and then with two hands.

1910-1911: Players are disqualified upon committing their fourth personal foul.

1910-1911: No coaching is allowed during the progress of the game by anybody connected with either team. A warning is given for the first violation and a free throw is awarded after that. 

1920-1921: The basket is moved to two feet from the baseline. Previously the players could climb the padded wall to get closer to the basket (with the new rule the wall is out of bounds).

1920-1921: A player can re-enter a game once. Before this rule, if a player left the game, he could not re-enter for the rest of the game.

1933-1934: A player may re-enter a game twice.

1937-1938: The center jump after every made basket is eliminated.

1956-1957: Grasping the rim is ruled unsportsmanlike conduct.

1957-1958: Offensive goal-tending is now banned.

1967-1968: The dunk is made illegal during the game and during warm-up.

1972-1973: An official can charge a technical foul on a player for unsportsmanlike conduct if the official deems the player 'flopped' to get a charging call.

1972-1973: Freshman are now eligible to play varsity basketball.

1973-1974: Officials can now penalize players away from the ball for fouls for acts such as holding, grabbing and illegal screens.

1976-1977: The dunk is made legal again.

1985-1986: The 45 second shot clock is introduced.

1985-1986: If a shooter is intentionally fouled and the basket is missed, the shooter will get two free throws and the team will get possession of the ball.

1986-1987: A three point shot was introduced at 19'9".

1993-1994: The shot clock is reduced from 45 seconds to 35 seconds.

1993-1994: The game clock will be stopped with successful baskets in the last minute of each half and in the last minute of overtime, with no substitution permitted.

2006-2007: A time out, will not be recognized by an airborne player falling out of bounds.

2008-2009: Three point arc extended to 20' 9".

2008-2009: Eliminated first space nearest basket in the lane in the free throw shooting alignment (i.e. now only six players could stand next to the lane during a free throw instead of eight).

2008-2009: Referees may use instant replay to determine if a flagrant foul has been committed and who started the incident.

2015-2016: Shot clock changed to 30 seconds.

Key Tournament Dates

And finally, with this year's tournament fast-approaching, we thought we'd provide you with a handy little rundown of key dates, courtesy of the NCAA:

ROUND SITE DATE(S)
Selection Sunday N/A March 12
First Four Dayton March 14–15
First/Second Buffalo March 16 & 18
First/Second Milwaukee March 16 & 18
First/Second Orlando March 16 & 18
First/Second Salt Lake City March 16 & 18
First/Second Greenville March 17 & 19
First/Second Indianapolis March 17 & 19
First/Second Tulsa March 17 & 19
First/Second Sacramento March 17 & 19
Midwest Regional Kansas City March 23 & 25
West Regional San Jose March 23 & 25
South Regional Memphis March 24 & 26
East Regional New York March 24 & 26
Final Four Phoenix April 1 & 3

We hope this is helpful to you as you fill out your bracket. It probably won't be perfect but you can still beat your friends and co-workers. And in the end, isn't that what it's really all about?

May the spirit of the late, great Craig Sager be with you in your quest. Enjoy the games!

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