America is set for a college basketball frenzy later this month with the start of the NCAA Division One Basketball Tournament, or March Madness as it is colloquially known.
Even non-fans can become consumed by filling in their bracket as they hunt for a big prize among their friends or work colleagues, but it is also a competition with a rich history since the first competition in 1939.
How March Madness Got Started
The first tournament, which was the idea of Ohio State coach Harold Olsen, featured just eight teams and Oregon Ducks had the distinction of beating Olsen’s team 46-33 to win the first title.
The competition gathered momentum though and was expanded to 16 competitors in 1951 and gaining a more familiar look in 1985 when 64 battled it out for glory.
The field was further extended in 2001 when the Mountain West Conference winners gained a spot and three more teams were introduced 10 years later to bring us to the current number of 68.
So 68 teams will be waiting to see which 36 teams will be awarded ‘at-large berths’ to go alongside the 32 winners of Division One conference championships.
Big Scores and Big Shocks
Four sets of 16 teams are seeded from one to 16 and it is generally regarded as an open goal for the top teams to move into the last 32, but no one told UMBC in 2018.
A total of 135 first v 16th-seed games had gone before without an upset but not only did UMBC get the better of highly fancied Virginia, they did so in fine style, posing a 74-54 success.
The biggest comeback victory in the tournament’s history came in 2001 when Duke were losing 39-17 in the first half of their clash with Maryland, but rallied to win 94-84.
The highest-scoring game came in 1990 when Loyola Marymount earned a 149-115 success over Michigan.
Two years earlier, LMU were involved in the previous tournament top-scoring encounter, when the Los Angeles college posted a 119-115 success over Wyoming.
Star Players and Coaches Who Have Shone in the Tournament
Only nine players have scored more than 300 points in the tournament and the charts are led by Duke’s Christian Laettner, who scored a total of 407 between 1989 and 1992.
Meanwhile, anyone looking to be the top-scoring player in a game this year will have to eclipse a record that has stood for 52 years, when Austin Carr scored a whopping 61 points for Notre Dame against Ohio.
As for guidance from the bench, no coach has won more games that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who goes into his final tournament with Duke needing three victories to become the first man to win 100 March Madness matches.
He has already guided them to five national championships so he will be looking to go out in a blaze of glory.
Top Teams in the Tournament’s 83-Year History
There have been 36 teams who have celebrated being national champions since March madness’s inception, but none have won more than UCLA’s tally of 11.
10 of those triumphs came in a golden period of 12 years between 1964 and 1975, including three successive wins when their star player was Lew Alcindor, who later, after changing his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, became the highest-points scorer in NBA history.
Kentucky are the college that has made the greatest number of appearances with 48, followed by North Carolina with 49. They lead the charts for wins with 129 and 126 respectively.