(CNN) — The men’s college basketball season is drawing to a close, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for the “Big Dance.”
March Madness has arrived and will field the best of the best and some overachieving “Cinderellas” for a chance to be crowned the NCAA Men’s Division I college basketball champion.
Originally started in 1939 – with the women’s edition only added in 1982 – it has become a fixture on any sports fan’s calendar and is one not to be missed.
Not only has it become synonymous with shocking results and setbacks, March Madness has been the springboard for many successful NBA careers, including Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry and Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis.
Here’s everything you need to know about the crescendo of the men’s basketball season.
The process of cutting back 68 teams in Division I has pitfalls for teams around every corner.
The 32 automatic qualifying spots are taken by the teams that win each of the 32 conferences that make up Division I, while the other 36 are selected by the NCAA selection committee for “major” berths.
The selection committee will announce the “at-large” teams as part of the full field of 68 teams on selection Sunday, March 12.
The opening round of March Madness is referred to as the “First Four”, in which eight teams – the four lowest seeded automatic qualifiers and the four lowest seeded at-large teams – play in four games to determine the final spots of the series. The “big” teams face each other as the automatic qualifiers compete against each other.
Once the 64 teams are assembled, the first and second rounds of March Madness will take place between March 16 and 19 at various locations across the US.
The next round of the tournament is the Regional Semifinals – popularly referred to as the “Sweet 16” – in which the 16 remaining teams compete for a spot in the “Elite Eight” – the Regional Finals Round.
The four teams that reach the “Final Four” are the winners of their respective regional series.
This year’s “Final Four” round will take place on April 1 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
The two winners will advance to the NCAA championship game to be played at the same venue on April 3, with the winner crowned the national champion.
Since it was organized more than 80 years ago, March Madness has become famous for a number of unique traditions.
Before the action gets underway, it’s common for fans and even non-Hoops fans to fill out a single-elimination tournament series – a process where spectators try to predict the results of each match, including the eventual winner.
People from all walks of life have tried the process, from former US Presidents Barack Obama and George HW Bush to Jimmy Fallon.
You will also likely see coaches and players from the last team lined up to cut down the nets on the field.
Cutting down the nets of a basket — believed to have originated in Indiana high school basketball in 1947 — has become synonymous with celebrating, particularly with a championship win.
There may be other points during the tournament where teams deem it worthy of cutting the nets, whether it’s in the Final Four or the Sweet 16, but you’ll almost certainly see members of the 2023 national champions cutting the nets in the Keeping NRG Stadium and wires as souvenirs.
March Madness is also known for its propensity for shocking events.
The elimination element of the tournament produces unexpected results as higher seeds knock down lower seeds. The unsung teams that topple notable programs are nicknamed “Cinderellas.” Over the years, there have been enough to charm neutrals or break the hearts of braces fanatics.
Last year’s dream run came from the unannounced Sint-Pietersplein. With an enrollment of 2,637 students, the college, located in Jersey City, New Jersey, caught everyone’s attention when it became the first No. 15 to reach the Elite Eight in NCAA tournament history, upsetting No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers and No. 2 seed Kentucky on the way.
From No. 16 seed UMBC Retrievers beating No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers in 2018 — becoming the first and only No. 16 seed to beat a first seed — to Lehigh beating college basketball powerhouse Duke — only the sixth at the time win for a No. 15 seed over a No. 2 – upsets are part of the structure of the annual madness.
Whether it’s hoping for misfortune, anticipating the drama, filling in parentheses, or watching potential future NBA stars, March Madness has something for all of us.