college basketball

30 fun facts about March Madness that might surprise you

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March 12th, 2021

A year ago today, the NCAA made the difficult, but necessary, decision to cancel March Madness for the first time in history, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, after a grueling wait, the NCAA basketball tournament is back for its 82nd installment, and players, coaches, and fans alike are ready to revel in the chaos of this one-of-a-kind event.

Get ready for yet another edition of this hair-raising and wildly unpredictable tournament by checking out these 30 fun facts about March Madness that may surprise you!

Origin of the NCAA tournament

1. In 1939, the inaugural NCAA tournament was hosted in Evanston, Illinois, and featured eight teams. The Oregon Webfoots defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, whose head coach, Harold Olsen, spearheaded the initiative to create this new tournament.

2. The National Invitation Tournament predated the NCAA tournament by one year, and used to be more prestigious. That changed after 1970, when Marquette head coach Al McGuire shunned an invite to the NCAA tournament and instead went to the NIT (which Marquette won). In response, the NCAA created a rule that forbade a team from participating in any postseason tourney if it declined an initial offer to play in the NCAA tournament.

3. Until the mid-1950s, teams could participate in both the NIT and NCAA tournaments. City College of New York is the only school to win the NCAA and NIT titles in the same year (1950). The school was later implicated in a points-shaving scandal, and the NCAA dropped it from Division I to Division III.

4. The Illinois High School Association originally coined the term "March Madness" in 1939 and attempted to sue the NCAA over its usage in 1996. Today, "March Madness" is a "dual use trademark" owned by both parties.

March Madness Cinderellas

5. The lowest-seeded team to win the NCAA tournament is 1985 champion Villanova, a No. 8 seed.

6. The lowest-seeded team to play in the Final Four is a No. 11 seed. Four No. 11 seeds have reached the national semifinal round (LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, and Loyola-Chicago in 2018). 

7. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers are the only No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed. UMBC upset Virginia 74-54 in the first round of the 2018 tournament.

8. The 2014 matchup between the No. 7 seed UConn Huskies and No. 8 seed Kentucky Wildcats represented the lowest-seeded combination in a national championship game.

9. A No. 5 seed has never won the NCAA tournament. Fifth-seeded Butler (2010), Indiana (2002), and Florida (2000) all competed in the title game but lost.

10. The biggest tournament upset, based on point spread, occurred in the 2012 round of 64, when No. 15 Norfolk State, a 21.5-point underdog, beat No. 2 Missouri.

No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament

11. The North Carolina Tar Heels have been awarded the most No. 1 seeds of any school, with 17. Kansas and Duke are tied at second, with 14.

12. All four No. 1 seeds met in the Final Four just once in NCAA history. That happened in 2008, with Kansas (champion), North Carolina, UCLA, and Memphis.

13. Three times in NCAA history, no No. 1 seed made it to the Final Four. That happened in 1980, 2006, and 2011.

14. Two No. 1 seeds have battled each other in the national championship game eight times in NCAA history (and seven times since the field expanded to 64). Most recently, No. 1 North Carolina beat No. 1 Gonzaga in 2017.

15. In 1997, No. 4 seed Arizona became the only team to beat three No. 1 seeds in a single tournament. The Wildcats defeated Kansas in the regional semifinal, then beat North Carolina in the national semifinal, and took down Kentucky in the championship game.

16. Nineteen teams have entered the NCAA tournament undefeated, but only seven went on to win the national championship. In 2021, Gonzaga will represent the 20th team to enter the tournament undefeated and will attempt to become the first unbeaten team since Indiana to win the NCAA championship.

NCAA tournament team and player records

17. The most points scored by one team in a tournament game is 149 points. No. 11 seed Loyola Marymount racked up that many points against No. 3 Michigan in a 149-115 win in the second round of the 1990 tournament.

18. Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater against Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Final is the most famous bucket of his record 407 career points in the NCAA tournament, which he piled up over 23 games.

19. In 1970, well before the three-point line was introduced to the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame shooting guard Austin Carr set the single-game record for most points scored (61). Carr went 25-of-44 from field-goal range and 11-of-14 from the charity stripe.

20. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly known as Lew Alcindor at UCLA), is the only men's player to win Most Outstanding Player of the tournament three times. UConn's Breanna Stewart won the award a record four times in the women's NCAA tournament.

21. Former UCLA center Bill Walton holds the record for most points scored in a national championship game. In 1973, he racked up 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting against Memphis State to lift UCLA to a record-setting seventh consecutive NCAA title.

22. Not only does Shaquille O'Neal own the record for most blocked shots (11) in an NCAA tournament game, but he is one of eight players to record a triple-double in the tournament, since 1987. Former Michigan State star Draymond Green is the only player with two triple-doubles (2011 and 2012).

Top-performing tournament coaches

23. Joe B. Hall, Bob Knight and Dean Smith are the only three men to play and coach on an NCAA championship team. Hall did both with Kentucky. Knight played for Ohio State in 1960 and coached Indiana to titles in 1976, 1981, and 1987. Smith played for Kansas in 1952 and coached North Carolina to titles in 1982 and 1993.

24. Larry Brown is the only coach to win both an NCAA championship and an NBA title. Brown coached Kansas to a banner in 1988 and led the Detroit Pistons to a championship in 2004.

25. The coach with the most NCAA titles is UCLA's John Wooden, with 10. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is second all-time, with five, while Coach K and Wooden are tied for most Final Four appearances (12). Krzyzewski leads all coaches with 94 individual tournament victories.

Miscellaneous March Madness trivia

26. Since the inception of the 64-team format in 1985, teams with a "Wildcat” mascot have won the national championship seven times, more than any other mascot.

27. UConn is the only school to field men's and women's national championship teams in the same year. The Huskies did this twice, in 2004 and 2014.

28. Kansas City, Missouri has played host to the Final Four a record 10 times. Indianapolis will host the Final Four for the eighth time in 2021.

29. The 1979 national championship clash, which featured Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, pulled in the highest television rating of all time for an NCAA tournament game. More than 35 million people tuned in for the Michigan State vs. Indiana State matchup, which garnered a 24.1 rating for the NBC broadcast

30. The odds of filling out a perfect NCAA tournament bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion, if you guess or flip a coin. If you know something about basketball, your odds improve to 1 in 120.2 billion.