March Madness - additional information
NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Championships, also called “March Madness” or “The Big Dance” is one the most famous American sporting events of the year. Both tournaments, which determine the national women’s and men’s champions of college basketball, are organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The men’s event was first introduced in 1939, but a lot of changes have occurred since then, including regarding the number of teams playing, from eight teams during its first decade to 68 teams since 2011. The women’s championship wasn’t introduced until the 1981/82 season, when 32 teams participated, as opposed to 64 presently.
The men’s tournament is played among champions from 32 Division I conferences. An additional 36 teams, which are chosen during the so-called Selection Sunday, are awarded at-large berths. The final 68 participating teams are split into four regions, East, South, Midwest, and West. After multiple eliminations, four teams, each representing a region, also known as “The Final Four,” play each other in the semi-final of the championship, usually on the last Saturday of the tournament. The two winners then meet to play the championship game on the following Monday. The women’s tournament, which follows similar rules, ends with the final championship game played on Tuesday, thus marking the end of the college basketball season. As of 2015, UCLA has won the championship a record 11 times, having participated 44 times in total. The team with the most NCAA Women’s titles is Connecticut Huskies, which won the Championship ten times, including in 2015.
Both events, as well as college basketball in general, have been increasing in popularity in the past decades, with both attendances and TV ratings going up. According to Nielsen, almost 54 million people watched a college basketball event on broadcast TV in the spring of 2014. March Madness TV ratings in 2015 had an average of 7, more than the previous year TV ratings. Moreover, almost 800 thousand paying spectators attended NCAA college basketball tournament games in the 2013 season. The 2013 March Madness event with the highest viewership was the Championship final between Michigan and Louisville, which attracted over 23 million viewers.