Everything You Need to Know About this Year’s March Madness

Jake Hawkins, Staff Writer

With the conclusion of the National Football League season on Feb. 12, most sports fans were left in despair as the National Basketball Association also began their all-star break a few weeks later. This left sports fans with little to look forward to until March rolled around, when the college basketball season started.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I men’s basketball tournament, or “the big dance,” first occurred in 1939. The tournament contains 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the championship in a single elimination tournament in a bracket style. The rankings of the tournament all come down to “Selection Sunday,” where the teams in and out of the tournament are revealed, as well as the seeds each team will receive. Before the games begin, every team is ranked one through68 by the selection committee according to their performance in the regular season and conference tournament.

One of the most famous traditions associated with the tournament is that almost every sports fan fills out a bracket of their predictions on who will win each game — regardless of the extent of a fans’ knowledge about college basketball. One of the closest predictions of a full bracket was in 2019 when the record of 39 straight games in the tournament was predicted by Gregg Nigl, who correctly predicted the first 49 games of the tournament. Along with this, multiple superstitions have emerged, ideas and theories on how to predict every game correctly. However, it really comes down to one’s gut instinct.  

“I have two brackets; one of them, I have [University of] Houston and the other I have [University of] Alabama winning,” Miami Palmetto Senior High sophomore and college basketball enthusiast Ethan Amster said. 

Regardless, there are still many tips to offer. For example, there are usually major upsets during the tournament. Over the years, having an odd final four has become a trend.

“Honestly this year I don’t think any underdogs will do good,” Amster said.

The key to predict a bracket correctly is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each team. The Big 12 remain on top with defending champions, the Kansas Jayhawks leading the conference at 25-6, and Jalen Wilson leading the team in points and rebounds per game. University of Texas, Kansas State University, Baylor and Texas Christian University round out the top five, with each team looking to make some noise in the competition. 

Apart from the Big 12, the 29-2 Houston Cougars have made the most out of their last season in the American Athletic Conference, earning themselves a fourth regular-season conference title in the past five seasons. They are ranked third in the nation defensively and possess a 42.7 field goal percentage, averaging 70 points per game. The Cougars have only allowed three teams to reach that mark this season, and aim to replicate their regular season success during the tournament. 

The college football powerhouse, Alabama, anticipates becoming a threat on the court as the Crimson Tide near 26 wins for the second time in the last three seasons. This season proves Alabama’s best in program history, as most believe the team will earn their first ever number one seed in the tournament. This success results from various factors, one being that the school has a top 20 offense and defense. Another is the undisputed best freshman in college basketball, Brandon Miller, Alabama’s leading scorer and a projected top five pick in the 2023 NBA draft. The newfound success has led many to wonder if Alabama can finish off their greatest basketball season in program history with a big win.

Purdue, University of California Los Angeles and the University of Miami are some of the other main contenders. The Purdue Boilermakers are 24-4, led by Zach Edey who averages almost 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. Edey has led the team in multiple categories such as blocks, receiving about two every game. UCLA is led by senior Jaime Jaquez Jr., arguably a top five college basketball player who currently averages nearly 18 points and eight rebounds a game, as he leads the team in both categories. UM is ready for revenge after their loss last year to eventual champions of the tournament, losing to Kansas 76-50. The biggest headline for Miami’s success is fourth year junior guard Isaiah Wong, who recently won ACC player of the year award. Wong leads the team in points, assists and steals, and hopes to lead his team to the championship this year. 

“UM we’re doing great at least sweet 16 at least. I’m really happy we’re doing good,” Amster said. 

With all the joy of being selected for the tournament, there is the depression of being “snubbed” from the tournament. This has become a large theme in March Madness history where teams and fans they believe should have won in the tournament did not. 

“Well I thought Clemson was definitely snubbed out but also Syracuse should have made it,” Amster said. 

No matter what happens in this tournament, it is predicted to be an exciting, undetermined journey as no team holds clear superiority.