March is a pretty wonderful time of year — winter is winding down, spring is on the horizon, and the NCAA hosts the most electrifying tournament. That’s right, we are in the midst of March Madness! It’s a time full of heartbreaking upsets, incredible Cinderella stories, and it all comes down to one team cutting down the nets and claiming the title of National Champion. 

College sports, unsurprisingly, are vastly different from the professional landscape. For a majority of these players, reaching an NCAA tournament will be the highlight of their career. Only a small percentage of college athletes ever come close to playing in the professional arena. What does this mean? Well, it means that the intensity and passion is through the roof in college athletics. 

The men’s March Madness tournament has been going on since 1939, and 36 different teams have won it all. The University of California, Los Angeles currently holds the record for most tournament wins with a mind-boggling 11 titles. Being one of the oldest and most successful college tournaments, March Madness garners heavy media attention: TNT, CBS, truTV, and TBS will be among the networks streaming games this year. 

On top of that, according to a study by Statista, it is estimated that nearly 36.5 million U.S. adults filled out brackets for the tournament last year. That figure is actually down from the previous year — 36.7 million U.S. adults. With Massachusetts recently legalizing sports betting, it will be interesting to see how the state handles a tournament as popular as March Madness. 

Behind all the media, all the analysts, and all the excitement around the tournament, the only important thing is the 64 teams battling it out for ultimate glory. The tournament is single elimination, and rankings are based on regular season and conference playoffs results. Teams who win their conference get an automatic bid to the tournament, and the tournament also gives at-large bids to teams who the Selection Committee feel deserve a spot in the tournament. 

Last year, the University of Kansas knocked off the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to win the tournament. Kansas was a heavy favorite entering the tournament, and they were able to take care of business and bring the trophy back to Lawrence. 

This year, there are multiple big storylines as the tournament approaches. Following the selection show on March 12, UNC became the first team to be No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll to not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Joining their rivals and blueblood brothers in the headlines is Duke University. Since saying goodbye to longtime head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have struggled to keep up their dominating traditions. Coming in at a five seed, it will be interesting to see how Duke navigates the tournament without the legendary Coach K at the helm. 

The University of Alabama, Houston University, University of Kansas, and Purdue University secured their number one seed. Although being the number one seed puts a team in great position, it doesn’t secure them a win. Back in 2018, University of Maryland, Baltimore County stunned the world by beating University of Virginia to become the first 16 seed to beat a one seed. And last year, Saint Peter’s University became the first 15 seed to qualify for the Elite Eight. 

That is the beauty of this tournament: Anything and everything is possible. There is no such thing as a sure bet in March Madness. 

Outside the top dogs, University of Connecticut, Creighton University, and Xavier University have been pegged as possible title contenders. There is no telling who may be the Cinderella story this year. It’s all about winning and advancing — the best teams are the ones who never look back. Get ready to dance!

Games officially begin on March 17. To follow along with the tournament, keep an eye out for the Justice as we report on all the action … I mean Madness!