There’s something about March that sets sports fans everywhere ablaze, and it’s not the fact that spring training has begun, or that football is over: it’s the start of the NCAA Championship Basketball Tournament.
Each year 68 teams from across the country compete for the title of national champion, and as the teams whittle down to 32, then to 16, and then to 8, the tension rises and things really get competitive. But how did the tournament start and, more importantly, how did it become so popular?
The first NCAA Championship Basketball Tournament was founded by former Ohio State basketball coach Harold Olsen. This initial tournament only included 8 participating teams.
The tournament moved from its original home in Evanston, Illinois, to Kansas City, Missouri, and eventually ended up in New York City in 1945, where it had to defend for prestige against the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
The number of teams allowed to compete in the tournament increased from 8 to 16.
UCLA, which has won more NCAA Championship Basketball games than any other team, won its first tournament this year, beating Duke by a score of 98 to 83.
After multiple, highly-ranked teams were denied entrance to the tournament because of the one team per conference rule, the rules changed so that the NCAA could select from a pool of “at-large” teams to compete—upping the number of competing teams to 32.
Ownership rights for broadcasting the tournament switched from NBC to CBS, where they have remained for the last 36 years. The funding the network provides the NCAA accounts for 90 percent of the NCAA’s total revenue.
The Final Four games of the tournament were held at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey—the last time the tournament would be held in a basketball arena, not a superdome.
The NCAA voted to expand the tournament to start with 68 teams, the largest number of teams allowed to compete for the title in history.
Basketball fan or not, the NCAA Championship Basketball Tournament makes for some exciting television—and great, competitive fun. Throwing a watch party? Make sure you have everything you need!