March Madness Tradition Grew Over Time

Cristian Leon, Staff Reporter

March Madness is an annual event that is highly anticipated by basketball fans in the United States. By the time March arrives, many fans are excited for it. It is the premier college basketball tournament featuring some of the best Division 1 teams across the country competing for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. March Madness has a very old and important history that many people look at as a tradition.

The first tournament was held in 1939, and included Brown, Ohio State, Villanova, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah State as the original 8 teams. The first ever tournament winner was The University of Oregon, who emerged as the first champion defeating Ohio State University. Every year since then, the tournament has grown in popularity with more teams and eventually changing the format bringing in regional play and multiple rounds.

The tournament started out as 8 teams but later in 1985 the NCAA announced a 64-team format, which then grew to the current 68 teams. This change gave more teams an opportunity to participate and increase the number of upsets and surprise victories during March Madness. With more teams comes more fans, which gives March Madness more viewers and fans.

One of the most significant and important moments from March Madness was in 1966. This was a big moment that changed not only the game of basketball but the culture around it. Texas Western University (now known as University of Texas at EL paso) defeated the University of Kentucky in the final. They were the first team with an all Black starting line up to win the championship, which led them to have an impact on the civil rights movement in the US. 

The years that made March Madness to be what it is today were in the 1970s and 1980s, with fans tuning in to watch numerous iconic players from Larry Bird, to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Most of these players were then known as the top players in the NBA being in the Hall of Fame. 

Not only were players seen and praised during these tournaments but so were coaches. March Madness has given many rises to numerous iconic coaches, including John Wooden, who led the University of California , Los Angeles to 10 championships in the 60s and 70s, also the most latest known coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who has led Duke University to five championships since taking over as coach in the 80s.

In 2018, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County became the first 16th seed team to defeat a number 1 seed in the tournament’s history against the University of Virginia. That win sent a shock wave through the world of college basketball and cemented the tournament’s reputation of becoming one of the most unpredictable and exciting tournaments in the sports world.

Not only March Madness itself is a traditional thing but so is the bracket that comes with the tournament. Many people love doing the brackets because it’s a fun way to make money or even just to have a reason to watch the tournament. “I think the competitiveness of the brackets and actual games kept March Madness going on for so long. Like every year, every person gets a chance to get the right bracket, even though it never happens it makes it a fun competition,” said senior Tanner Vanhoose.  A bracket is a good way to keep up with the tournament by knowing who wins and loses, but if you predict the winners right you have a chance to win a lot of money which gets people so into the events.

March Madness has become such a rich and fascinating event in the sports world, filled with legendary moments and performances that are very memorable. Capturing the imagination of basketball fans and providing countless unforgettable moments, it has become such a big deal in the US and is a very big reason March is known as ‘March Madness”.