For the next three weeks, let’s forget about all that is wrong with sports, and more specifically college sports. Put on hold the complaints about the exploitation of student athletes, the arbitrary rulings of the NCAA hierarchy and the culture that promotes athletic achievement over scholastic success. Ignore the tendencies we have to celebrate young men as heroes only to spit them out later as villainous scapegoats. Instead, embrace the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for what it is: the most exciting and dramatic multi-game sporting event in the United States.
March Madness is everything that spectators want sports to be. Upsets, buzzer beaters, foul trouble, swagger and posture. The heart-beating blindness of anticipation. The vicarious elation of triumph. The devastating free fall of defeat. And these are just the qualities that we’ve come to expect. Despite being an annual event with a finite number of potential outcomes, every year the tournament brings with it a fantastic share of surprises.
It’s immense. And it all begins on Tuesday (or Thursday, depending on how you look at it). Here, for your edification, is everything you need to know about the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
A Is For Admission
Given the importance of admission to the majority of those attending college, it seems appropriate that the term should also be at the forefront of the biggest tournament in college sports. As such, it’s worth noting that a total of 68 teams have gained admission into the 2013 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
This includes 31 automatic bids, 30 of which went to the school that won their conference tournament. The single remaining automatic bid went to Harvard, who finished in first place in its conference during the Ivy League’s regular season. The Ivy League is the only major conference that doesn’t hold a championship tournament, presumably due to such practices being beneath them. From there, 37 teams were granted “at-large” bids which were decided by the NCAA Selection Committee.
The very same committee has also seeded the entire field from 1 to 68, and then used these rankings to create this bracket:
B Is For Basketball
Most amazingly, the NCAA doesn’t require a specific brand of basketball to be used during its regular season. Instead, the home team plays with whatever type it prefers. More often that not, it prefers whatever brand is attached to its equipment contract.
However, during the NCAA Tournament, Wilson basketballs are the only brand that will be used. This is the case despite the fact that only 16% of Division I teams use this brand of ball during the regular season. That compares rather unfavorably to Nike, whose balls are used by 64% of the programs.
This is the ball that will be used during 2013 NCAA Mens Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia.
It’s 29.5 inches in circumference with a leather cover and pebbled composite channels.
C Is For Cinderella
In the always excellent Big Dance Edition of Forde Minutes, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports names Virginia Commonwealth, Iowa State, Davidson, Belmont and Colorado State as the most likely programs to ruin your bracket with upsets. He also suggests that Memphis, Michigan, Arizona, Missouri and Pittsburgh could be bounced earlier than their seed might lead one to believe, so look for their first and potential second round opponents to make a move.
Of course, the greatest Cinderealla story of all-time belongs to the 1985 Villanova team that won a national title as the number eight seed. It took an incredible 79% shooting percentage from the field in the championship game to overcome a Georgetown effort led by Patrick Ewing.
D Is For Dick Vitale
If Dick Vitale’s performance on ESPN’s Bracketology following Selection Sunday is any indication, it’s going to be a very fun tournament from the NCAA basketball icon.
As for Vitale’s predictions, the former coach went out on a limb and picked Louisville, the number one seeded team, to become this year’s National Champion. He guessed that the Cardinals will overcome Indiana in the finals.
E Is For Everyone Hates Them
Duke is a lot like Manchester United or the New York Yankees. They are either loved or hated: loved by their supporters, and hated by everyone else. The reason this dichotomy exists is largely due to recent success, and the resulting band wagon fans who can’t help but feel a sense of entitlement after winning 10 of the last 15 Atlantic Coast Conference championships, and making the Sweet Sixteen in 12 of the last 15 NCAA tournaments. This is the stuff that enrages neutral observers.
In last year’s tournament, the Blue Devils were knocked out by number 15 seed Lehigh in the first round. This, combined with a disastrous loss at the hands of Maryland in the ACC tournament has contributed to not only a number two seed in the same bracket as the favorites from Louisville, but also a general feeling that this year’s incarnation is far from the finest in the university’s history.
It would be foolish to write Duke off, completely. The team still has a 18-1 record with 6’11″ senior forward Ryan Kelly, who has missed a lot of time with a foot injury this season. That only loss came on Friday against the Tarpins, with Kelly only playing 28 minutes and not playing anywhere near the caliber to which he’s capable.
So, the bad news is that Duke might still go on an extended run. The good news, if such a phenomenon is to occur, is that at least you’ll have a team to root against long after your favorite is eliminated.
F Is For Final Four
This year’s Final Four will take place in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia Dome, with the Midwest Champion playing the West Champion, and the South Champion playing the East Champion on April 6th. The winners of these two games will then meet on April 8th to decide the 2013 National Champion.
Here, according to election forecaster and former baseball projection expert Nate Silver, are the Final Four odds for each region:
Midwest Final 4 Odds: Louisville 53%, Duke 18%, MSU 11%, St Louis 5%, Creighton 3%, Mizzou 3%, Memphis 2%, OK St. 2%
— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) March 18, 2013
West Final 4 Odds: Gonzaga 33%, Ohio St. 25%, Wisconsin 9%, N Mex 9%, Arizona 8%, K-State 5%, Pitt 5%, Notre Dame 2% — Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) March 18, 2013
South Final 4 Odds: Florida 37%, Kansas 32%, Michigan 13%, Georgetown 7%, VCU 3%, Minnesota 2%, UNC 2% — Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) March 18, 2013
East Final 4 Odds: Indiana 51%, Syracuse 12%, Miami 11%, Marquette 6%, NC St. 5%, Butler 3%, UNLV 3%
— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) March 18, 2013
G Is For Gambling
Despite being completely illegal in most jurisdictions in the United States, Americans will wager an estimated $2.4 billion on the NCAA tournament, with only three percent of that figure actually being bet through legal channels like sports books in Nevada.
Because so many of us will be participating in an office pool that typically costs anywhere between $5 and $100 to enter, more people actually bet on March Madness than on the Super Bowl. However, the average wager for the NFL Championship dwarfs what the average wager on the NCAA tournament by as much as 500%
According to Vegasinsider.com, Louisville are the current favorites to win the tournament, with 9-2 odds. Indiana are close behind at 7-1, followed by Duke, Florida and Miami all at 8-1. Kansas is listed at 10-1, and Gonzaga have the lowest odds out of all the number one seeds, currently sitting at 12-1.
If underdogs are more of your thing: Saint Mary’s, Davidson, Belmont, La Salle and Boise State all have 1000-1 odds.
|Georgetown||18-1||San Diego St||300-1|
|North Carolina||50-1||Ole Miss||500-1|
|Oklahoma St||100-1||Boise St||1000-1|
H Is For Hoosiers
The number one seed in the East Region belongs to the Indiana Hoosiers.
- Record: 27-6 (14-4 in the Big Ten).
- Key Wins: Georgetown, UNC, MSU, Michigan, Ohio St.
- Record vs RPI Top 50: 9-6.
- Best Finish: NCAA Champs (’40, ’53, ’76, ’81, ’87).
- Last Finish: Sweet Sixteen (2012).
- Head Coach: Tom Crean.
- Key Player: Victor Oladipo, Guard.
I Is For Is It Or Isn’t It A Conference?
Here are the names of fifteen different conference names. Some of them are real NCAA Division I conferences and have a representative in the tournament. Some of them are fictional, and unsurprisingly, don’t have a representative in the tournament.
- Atlantic Sun.
- Big North.
- Big South.
- Big West.
- East River.
- Metro Atlantic Athletic.
- Mid-Eastern Athletic.
- North-American Athletic.
- Pacific North.
Answers are at the bottom of the guide.
J Is For Jim Nantz
What can you say about Jim Nantz, the lead NCAA basketball play-by-play sportscaster for CBS since 1990?
For a long time, it’s been this: He’s pretty good at calling The Masters. He’s not half bad at calling a football game. And he also does college basketball.
Once again, Nantz will be calling the Final Four and National Championship game at the NCAA Tournament for CBS, and while his style is probably best described as cloying, his many years behind the microphone are beginning to lend a familiarity to his voice that – through no skill of his own – has resulted in an association of his play-by-play with the tournament itself. While I suppose this is what every sports announcer/commentator wants, I’m not so sure the association is as genuinely positive as it is the result of being beaten into us.
For my money, I’d rather hear Marv Albert call a college basketball game, or even Dan Shulman, who is unfortunately affiliated with ESPN.
K Is For Kansas
The number one seed in the South Region belongs to the Kansas Jayhawks.
- Record: 29–5 (14–4 in the Big 12).
- Key Wins: Ohio St., Kansas St., Oklahoma St.
- Record vs RPI Top 50: 11-5.
- Best Finish: NCAA Champs (’52, ’88, ’08).
- Last Finish: Runner Up (2012).
- Head Coach: Bill Self.
- Key Player: Ben McLemore, Shooting Guard.
L Is For Louisville
The number one seed in the Midwest Region belongs to the Louisville Cardinals.
- Record: 26-5 (14-4 in the Big East).
- Key Wins: Missouri, Marquette, Syracuse, Notre Dame.
- Record vs RPI Top 50: 8-7.
- Best Finish: NCAA Champs (’80, ’86).
- Last Finish: Final Four (2012).
- Head Coach: Rick Pitino.
- Key Player: Russ Smith, Guard.
M Is For Marshall Henderson
There is no player in all of basketball more likely to incite a riot on the court than Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson.
Whether it’s by knocking down threes from all over the court:
Or, by other means:
Henderson plays with a reckless abandon that has proven especially effective this season. The passionate guard averaged an SEC-high 20.1 points per game, leading his team to a conference championship. This is the junior’s first season in Mississippi, after transferring first from Utah to Texas Tech, then from Texas Tech to South Plains Junior College and then finally from South Plains to Ole Miss.
N Is For Names
While an entire post has already been dedicated to some of the finer moments of nomenclature from the parents of athletes in this year’s tournament, there are a few names that deserve a second mention.
Before we get to individual honors, I would be remiss not to mention that if Wichita State puts the following five players on the floor all at once, they automatically win the tournament, at least as it pertains to good taste:
- Chadrack Lufile;
- Cleanthony Early;
- Derail Green;
- Tekele Cotton; and
- Fred Van Vleet.
The Shockers easily win the team event. However, in terms of individual players, the runner-up for the best name in the tournament is none other than freshman point guard for Indiana, Yogi Ferrell, who led the Hoosiers with 4.3 assists per game. His ball distribution skills earned him the second most single-season assists (132) by a freshman in the university’s history.
And coming in first place, with the greatest name of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is junior point guard Bubu Palo of Iowa State. Palo joined the Cyclones as a walk-on ahead of the 2010/2011 season, before earning a scholarship last year as a valuable player off the bench. The plucky ball-handler missed time this season after being suspended from the team in September due to sexual assault charges. He rejoined the team in January when forensic evidence on a blouse belonging to the woman who accused Palo of abuse clashed with her and her mother’s sworn testimony.
Honorable mention: Shaka Smart, the head coach of Virginia Commonwealth.
O Is For Origins
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was created by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, spearheaded by Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen’s efforts in 1938. The very first event was held in March of 1939, and involved eight schools playing in single-elimination games to determine the National Champion. Oregon eventually won the tournament with a 46-33 victory over Ohio State.
P Is For Play-In Games
All of the play-in games, which the lesser among us might refer to as the First Four, will be played at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
TUESDAY, MARCH 19:
- Game One: N.C. A&T vs. Liberty at 6:40 PM ET.
- Game Two: Mid Tennessee vs. St. Mary’s at 9:10 PM ET.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20:
- Game Three: LIU-Brooklyn vs. James Madison at 6:40 PM ET.
- Game Four: Boise St. vs. LaSalle at 9:10 PM ET.
The eight teams involved are comprised of the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers and the four lowest-seeded “at-large” selections. The winners of these single-elimination games advance to the main draw of the tournament. The winner of Game One will play Louisville (1); the winner of Game Two will play Memphis (6); the winner of Game Three will play Kansas State (4) and the winner of Game Four will play Indiana (1) in the next round.
Q Is For Quality Competition
Big South champion Liberty University became the first 20-loss team in five years, and only the second in history, to earn a place in the NCAA tournament.
After losing the first eight games of their season, the Flames finished fifth out of six teams in the Northern Division of their conference. Then, in the conference tournament, Liberty, who hadn’t won more than three games in a row all year, beat Coastal Carolina, High Point, Gardner-Webb and finally, top seeded Charleston Southern, to take the title.
Their record on the year: 15 wins to 20 losses.
R Is For Representation (By Conference)
There are ten conferences with at least two teams in the 2013 tournament. Here they are in order of most to least:
- Big East: 8 – Louisville (1), Georgetown (2), Marquette (3), Syracuse (4), Notre Dame(7), Pittsburgh (8), Villanova (9), Cincinnati (10).
- Big Ten: 7 – Indiana (1), Ohio State (2), Michigan State (3), Michigan (4), Wisconsin (5), Illinois (7), Minnesota (11).
- Atlantic 10: 5 – St. Louis (4), VCU (5), Bulter (6), Temple (9), La Salle (13).
- Big 12: 5 – Kansas (1), Kansas State (4), Oklahoma (5), Iowa State (10), Oklahoma (10).
- Mountain West: 5 – New Mexico (3), Colorado State (8), UNLV (5), San Diego State (13), Boise State (11).
- Pac-12: 5 – Arizona (6), UCLA (6), California (12), Oregon (12).
- ACC: 4 – Miami (2), Duke (2), North Carolina (8), North Carolina State (8).
- SEC: 3 – Florida (3), Missouri (9), Ole Miss (12).
- Missouri Valley: 2 – Creighton (7), Wichita State (9).
- Sun Belt: 2 – Middle Tennessee State (11), Western Kentucky (16).
- WCC: 2 – Gonzaga (1), St. Mary’s (11).
S Is For Seeding
As previously mentioned, the same selection committee that decides who gets into the tournament also seeds every team that’s admitted. While the process for putting together the brackets begins before the seeding process, there is often an overlap due the small amount of time between the final conference tournament game and the release of the brackets and seeding.
Though the brackets only feature the seed numbers 1-16 in each region, the committee assembles an S-curve of teams seeded from 1-64, and attempt to ensure that, as an example, the strongest first seed is matched with the weakest second seed, so that there’s a balance in terms of seeding across each region of the tournament.
The selection committee uses a number of factors to seed teams based on this S-curve, including record, strength of schedule, and the Ratings Percentage Index, a metric designed to properly weight each of these elements.
T Is For Television
In the United States, Turner Sports will televise 41 games across its three television networks TBS, TNT and truTV, while CBS will broadcast 26 games including the Final Four and national championship games. Turner and CBS will go with two studios, with Greg Gumbel and Ernie Johnson acting as the main hosts. Charles Barkley, Greg Anthony and Kenny Smith will be based in New York City, while Matt Winer, Seth Davis and Steve Smith will be in Atlanta. Beginning with the regional finals, Doug Gottlieb will join the New York studio, and Johnson will head to Atlanta.
In Canada, TSN and TSN2 will begin their coverage on Thursday afternoon and continue every day of the tournament with coverage featuring pre-game and post-game analysis of the day’s action, plus live coverage of a selection of games each day. Kate Beirness returns to host from the network’s studios and will be joined by analysts Jack Armstrong, Dan Shulman, and Sam Mitchell (!).
Here are your broadcast booth teams:
- Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg/Tracy Wolfson;
- Marv Albert/Steve Kerr/Craig Sager;
- Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Rachel Nichols;
- Kevin Harlan/Len Elmore/Reggie Miller/Lewis Johnson;
- Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Allie LaForce;
- Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner/Marty Snider;
- Tim Brando/Mike Gminski/Otis Livingston; and
- Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb/Jaime Maggio.
For the Final Four and title games:
- Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg/Steve Kerr.
U Is For Upsets
There have been sixteen 14-seeds that have beaten three-seeds in the first round:
|1999||Weber State||North Carolina||76-74|
|1995||Old Dominion||Villanova||89-81 (3OT)|
|1995||Weber State||Michigan State||79-72|
|1992||East Tennessee State||Arizona||87-80|
|1988||Murray State||NC State||78-75|
|1986||Arkansas-Little Rock||Notre Dame||90-83|
There have been six 15-seeds to defeat two-seeds in the first round of the tournament.
|1997||Coppin State||South Carolina||78-65|
However, in 74 years, there has never been a 16th seed that upset a number one seed. Will this finally be the year? Louisville plays the winner of North Carolina AT&T and Liberty, Gonzaga plays Southern University, Kansas plays Western Kentucky and Indiana plays the winner of LIU-Brooklyn and James Madison.
V Is For Very First Time
Atlantic Sun Conference champion Florida Gulf Coast University will be making its very first appearance in the NCAA tournament. I’m sure it will be fun while it lasts. Go Eagles!
W Is For Web Stream
In the United States, March Madness Live will offer free online streaming of every game of the tournament for pay TV subscribers. For non-pay TV subscribers, March Madness Live allows users to watch up to four hours of streaming without any registration.
In Canada, TSN.ca (not TSN.com hahahahaha) has live streaming of the First Four round match-ups on Tuesday and Wednesday beginning at 6:30 PM ET each night. Meanwhile, Bell Mobile TV has live streaming coverage of every game during the tournament.
X Is For Xavier
Despite making the Sweet Sixteen last year for the fourth time in five years, and some big wins during the 2012/2013 season against Memphis and Saint Louis, Xavier will not be competing at this year’s tournament. Nonetheless, the name of their school does begin with the letter “x,” making them invaluable for the purposes of this A-Z guide.
Y Is For Yesteryear
UCLA holds the record for the most NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships with 11 national championships. In the 2013 tournament, they hold the sixth seed in the South Region, but have been picked by several pundits as a potential upset victim. In second place all-time is the University of Kentucky with eight national championships. Unfortunately, the Wildcats will not be participating this year, after getting snubbed on Selection Sunday.
Among the top five teams in terms of national titles, Indiana University likely stands the best chance of improving their position. Currently tied for third with the University of North Carolina with five championships, the Hoosiers boast the number one seed in the East region.
Duke ranks fifth all-time with four national championships, and we’ve already gone through their chances at winning.
Z Is For Zags
The number one seed in the West Region belongs to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
- Record: 31–2 (16–0 in the West Coast Conference).
- Key Win: Oklahoma St.
- Record vs RPI Top 50: 6-2.
- Best Finish: Elite Eight (’99).
- Last Finish: Round of 32 (2012).
- Head Coach: Mark Few.
- Key Player: Kelly Olynyk, Power Forward.
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