March Madness – History, Winners & Records

March Madness – History, Winners & Records

March Madness is the commonly used name for the NCAA tournament, held annually in March and April to determine the Division I men’s and women’s college basketball national champion. The tournament is also referred to as “The Big Dance.”

In 1939, the first March Madness featured eight teams: Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah State, Villanova, Brown, Wake Forest, and Ohio State. Oregon won the championship game against Ohio State, 46-33.

Until the 1950s, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), founded in 1938, was the premier postseason college basketball competition. As the NCAA tournament grew, the team pool for the NIT shrank. The watered-down event, however, is still played every spring.

March madness - history, winners & records

In 1951, the NCAA men’s tournament field was expanded to 16 teams, then 32 in 1975. In 1985, the field was doubled to 64 teams. In 2001, a play-in game was added, bringing the number of teams to 65. In 2011, three more play-in games were added to the tournament.

The 64 teams have been split into four 16-team regions in which the No.1 seed plays the No.16 seed, the No.2 seed plays the No.15 seed and so on. The winner from each region meets each year in the Final Four, which takes place in one location. The final 16 teams are called the “Sweet 16”. The last eight teams are called “Elite Eight”.

The first girls’ tournament was held in 1982. In the first championship game, Louisiana Tech beat Cheyney, a school in Pennsylvania, 76-62. The women’s tournament does not have a play-in but otherwise follows the same format as the men’s tournament.

UCLA dominates men’s tournaments of the 1960s and early 1970s

UCLA has won the most national titles, 11-10 under legendary coach John Wooden, nicknamed “The Wizard of Westwood”. The first arrived in 1964, the second the following year. After failing to win in 1966, the Bruins won seven titles in a row from 1967 to 1973 and another in 1975.

UCLA’s dominance of March Madness in the 1960s and 1970s was led by future NBA stars Gail Goodrich, Sidney Wicks and Marques Johnson and Hall of Fame centers Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton.

Abdul-Jabbar, a 7-foot-2 center who became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, played for the Bruins from 1967 to 1969. He averaged 25.3 points in 12 tournament games and guided UCLA to three consecutive titles. He has been named the tournament MVP three times.

In 1972 and 1973, Walton led UCLA to consecutive championships. In that final title game, the 6-foot-11 Walton made 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points in an 87-66 victory over Memphis State. Walton’s performance is considered one of the best by any player in tournament history.

In 1974, UCLA’s bid for an eighth consecutive title ended in the Final Four with an 80-77 double-overtime loss to future champion North Carolina State. The Wolfpack was led by David Thompson, a 6-foot-4 guard and two-time Associated Press Player of the Year. North Carolina State defeated Marquette in the 1974 championship game, 76-64.

Notable NCAA Men’s Championship Teams

In 1983, the sixth-seeded North Carolina State, coached by Jim Valvano, defeated the much-favored Houston Cougars, led by future Hall of Fame members Akeem (who later changed his first name in Hakeem) Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. In a slow-paced back-and-forth game, the Wolfpack won, 54-52, on a dunk by Lorenzo Charles.

In 1990, the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, led by future NBA players Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, dominated the tournament. In the title game, the Runnin ‘Rebels crushed Duke, 103-73, the biggest margin of victory in a men’s championship game.

UNLV continued its championship momentum until 1991, winning 34 straight games before a surprise 79-77 loss to Duke in the Final Four. The Blue Devils won the championships in 1991 and 1992, the first of five national titles from coach Mike Krzyzewski.

In 2007, the Florida Gators became the first team since Duke to win back-to-back national titles. Florida coach Billy Donovan and a team led by three future NBA players – Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer – beat UCLA in the 2006 title game, 73-57. In the 2007 title game, Florida defeated Ohio State, 84-75.

In 2018, Virginia became the first No.1 seed to lose to a No.16 seed when beaten by Maryland-Baltimore County, 74-54. Virginia rebounded to win the 2019 national championship game against Texas Tech, 85-77, in overtime.

Notable Players of the Men’s NCAA Tournament

Duke’s Christian Laettner is the most prolific goalscorer in March Madness history with 407 points (17.7 per game) in 23 games, the most tournament games per player. Laettner led Duke to a Final Four in first year, second place in second year, and back-to-back national championships in 1991 and 1992.

In a 1992 game against Elite Eight against Kentucky, Laettner scored 31 points, making all 10 shots from the field and 10 from the free throw line. He also fired a shot that beat the buzzer to win the game in overtime, 104-103.

In the 1982 Championship game, North Carolina freshman Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time, had the winning shot with 17 seconds left to beat. Georgetown, 63-62.

Kansas’ Danny Manning and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker enjoyed famous runs throughout the tournament that culminated with championships and MVP awards. In the 1988 tournament, Manning carried the No.6 Jayhawks, averaging 27.2 points. In the championship game, Kansas beat Oklahoma, 83-79. In the 2011 championship game, Walker led the inexperienced Connecticut against Butler, 53-41.

In a 1970 game against Ohio, Austin Carr of Notre Dame scored a tournament record 61 points.

Connecticut dominates women’s basketball tournament

Connecticut, led by Hall of Fame Geno Auriemma, the most successful coach in Division I women’s college basketball, has won the most championships (11). The team’s titles came in 1995, 2000-2004, 2009, 2010 and 2013-2016. Six of Auriemma’s champion teams finished undefeated.

Auriemma was the first coach in women’s basketball history to guide a team to five consecutive Final Four appearances on two occasions.

In the 2013 National Championship game, Connecticut beat Louisville, 93-60, the biggest margin of victory in an NCAA Women’s Title game. In 2016, at the end of four consecutive championships, UConn nearly matched his margin of victory in 2013 by crushing Syracuse, 82-51.

Many of the greatest players in women’s basketball history have played in Connecticut. Since 1995 UConn players have won the Associated Press Player of the Year 12 times: Rebecca Lobo (1995), Jennifer Rizzotti (1996), Kara Wolters (1997), Sue Bird (2002), Diana Taurasi (2003) , Maya Moore (2009 and 2011), Tina Charles (2010), Breanna Stewart (2014, 2015 and 2016) and Paige Bueckers (2021).

First NCAA Women’s Tournament

The women’s tournament, first held in 1982, began with 32 teams, expanding to 64 teams before the 1994 season. In 1994, North Carolina defeated Louisiana Tech, 60-59, for the premier league. 64-team NCAA women’s tournament.

In 1987, Pat Summitt won the first of his eight national championships, leading Tennessee to Louisiana Tech, 67-44. Tennessee also won championships in 1989 and 1991. Then, after seeing her coach rival Auriemma win her first championship in 1995, Summitt won the championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998. She also won the championship titles. NCAA in 2007 and 2008.

READ MORE: First Girls’ College Basketball Game Played

Notable NCAA Women’s Tournament Players

In the first NCAA women’s tournament in 1982, Drake’s Lorri Bauman scored 50 points against Maryland, a women’s tournament record.

In 1983 and 1984, Cheryl Miller of Southern California led her team to the national championships. She was named the Most Outstanding Player in each of the USC title races.

From 1996 to 1998, forward Chamique Holdsclaw led Tennessee to three national titles. She holds the tournament women’s points record (479) and was named tournament MVP in 1997 and 1998.

In the 2012 tournament, Brittany Griner, a 6-foot-9 center, led Baylor to their second national title. Its 105 blocks are the largest in the history of the tournament.

In 2018, Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale landed winning shots in the Final Four to defeat then undefeated Connecticut and then Mississippi State in the national championship game.

March Madness TV History

CBS has been broadcasting the NCAA Men’s Tournament since snatching the rights from NBC in 1982. In 2016, CBS partnered with Turner Sports on an $ 8.8 billion deal that extended its broadcast rights to in 2032.

The highest rated tournament game was the 1979 clash between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State and Larry Bird’s Indiana State, broadcast by NBC. The game had a rating of 24.1 and 35.1 million viewers.

The next two highest-rated title matches were Villanova’s loss to Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas in 1985 and Duke’s victory against the Michigan Wolverines ‘Fab Five’ in 1992. These matches were scored 23.3 and 22.7.

READ MORE: How a Canadian Invented Basketball


Chicago Tribune
College Basketball Reference NCAA tournament game boxscores
John Wooden “Wizard of Westwood”, ESPN
New York Times
Sports broadcast newspaper

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