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Understanding “March Madness”

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Every year at this time the sports news is dominated by stories about March madness. This phenomenon occupies air waves of both radio and television as well as print space in the daily newspapers. Just what is the big deal, one may wonder?

The big deal is that March Madness is the process of elimination of the best college basketball teams in the country. It ultimately results in finding the “cinderella” team who will reign as champion of the National Colelgiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It is a wildly popular event in which people all over the country get involved by filling out the brackets for the teams they think will match-up against each other, who will win, who will lose and who the ultimate champion will be.

This event occurs during that “downtime” of the year between the end of the football season and the beginning of the baseball season. It is a lifesaver for avid sports fans who love to constantly have a team to be cheering for. March Madness becomes a fun form of recreation among family members and office employees who often wage bets on their personal selections.

The brackets are 65 slots which are to be filled in with ones’ team choices. The first 30 slots are automatically given to those teams that have won their own particular conferences. Another automatic choice is the team who has won the Ivy League Division as they do not participate in any conference play. There are then 34 remaining bids which are extended to teams deemed qualified by a panel of 10 officials who select their choices based on the quality of wins, degree of difficulty of schedule and the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The RPI is a fairly complicated formula which assesses various teams as to their winning percentages, their opponents winning percentages and their opponents’ opponents average winning percentages. When these percentages are calculated, the teams with the highest RPI are the best teams.

As the weeks of March Madness progress, most of the teams lose and are eliminated resulting in the final four teams. This is the really big deal because as these teams continue in the play-offs it will result in the emergence of the winning team who is crowned as the NCAA champion. Dozens of college teams dream of this great honor and millions of enthusiastic fans delight in watching the process.

Nancy Smith is one of the owners of RobbinsSports.com, an online retailer specializing in volleyball nets and basketball backboards.