CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 14, 2018: Bracketeers are rapidly put the finishing touches on their NCAA basketball selections. And they’re doing so just in time for the first round games of college basketball’s “March Madness.” The annual tourney gets underway Thursday and Friday this week.
Even non-fans take up the annual challenge of picking the March Madness winners. That’s despite the fact that the odds of winning the lottery are better than filling out a perfect NCAA ballot.
With all the “hoop”-la of the next three weeks looming large, it’s an ideal time for offering helpful NCAA trivia facts. Read on, so you can astound your friends between games at your favorite watering hole.
We begin with the brackets themselves. Much like the resistance to an official college football championship, college basketball experienced the same problem way back in the 1930s. That was before the NCAA finally sent 8 teams out to compete for the title in 1939.
Believe it or not, since that time, the tournament has expanded no less than 11 times. Beginning with an eight team tournament between 1939 and 1950, the action was expanded to 16 teams in 1951 and 1952.
Since 2011, the road to the NCAA championship has consisted of 68 teams. That number gets quickly pared down to 64 after an initial four “play-in” contests that allow bubble teams a wildcard shot at making the tournament.
The year 1970 was probably the worst configuration in NCAA tournament history when 40 teams were selected with 24 of them receiving byes in the first-round.
Arguably the most logical number of teams occurred between 1972 until 1975. During that period, there were 32 teams and the champion needed to put together a five-game winning streak to take home the trophy.
Money and television exposure changed everything in 1984 when 64 or more teams were invited to compete.
As if 64 is not enough, the NCAA considered expanding again to 96 teams following the 2010 season. There were even discussions about going as high as 128.
With those numbers freshly in your mind, we pose another trivia question. It concerns an individual record that will never be broken, unless, of course, the tournament expands in the future. Even then it will highly unlikely to surpass.
As for that question: Who holds the record for the most games played in NCAA tournament history, and how many games did he play?
Think about that one. Stumped? Find the answer a little further down in this column.
Back to the brackets and some quirks about the seeding process that even the most ardent fan has probably not considered. For instance, Cinderella comes to the ball every year and captures the hearts of most of the people who have no skin in the game.
Did you know however, that the best seed for being an NCAA Cinderella team is #12. In the last nine tournaments, the twelfth seed has compiled and 18-18 record in knocking out Number 5. Incredibly, at least one No. 12 won a first round game in 16 of the past 18 tournaments. All this despite the fact that Number 12 has never advanced beyond the Elite Eight.
The lowest seed ever to win the tournament is Villanova at Number 8. But there have been four other Number 8s to play in the championship series, namely, Kentucky, Butler, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Oddly enough, the Tarheels and the Badgers both made the Final Four in 2000.
Three Number 11s have also been to the Final Four: LSU, George Mason and VCU. Eleventh is the lowest seed ever to make the championship round.
Just for fun, here are a few of the most interesting NCAA Final Four facts:
- The fewest number of field goals in a single game is 8. That honor goes to Springfield vs. Indiana in 1940. Indiana won, 48-24.
- Springfield also established the record of lowest shooting percentage at 12.7, resulting in the two oldest surviving records in NCAA tournament history.
- Ironically, Springfield is the college where James Naismith invented the game of basketball.
- From the ridiculous to the sublime: The most points scored by one team in a game was 149 by Loyola Marymount in 1990 against Michigan. Though Michigan lost by 34 points, they did score 115 for an NCAA combined total record of 264 points in the game.
- We’ve all heard fans screaming at the refs, “Let them play!” In 1956 Iowa attempted 52 free throws. But, believe it or not, their opponent, Morehead State, shot 53 for a combined single game record of 105. Iowa won the game, 97-83.
- Austin Carr of Notre Dame set the mark for most individual points in a game against Ohio University with 61 in 1970. In fact, Carr has the highest career scoring average in tournament history based on two years of competition and a minimum of six games. Carr averaged 41.3 points per game in seven outings.
All of which leads us to our trivia question regarding the person who played the most tournament games in history.
And now the answer to our NCAA trivia question:
At first glance, the number 23 doesn’t appear insurmountable until you consider that the maximum number of games possible in a four-year career is 24. To reach that mark a player would have to compete in the Final Four Championship every year of his college career.
Christian Laettner played in one semi-final and three title games, in which his Duke Blue Devils captured two championships. The Blue Devils won their first national basketball trophy in school history in 1991 and repeated the feat the following year. Laettner played in every game possible during his time at Duke. That makes him perhaps the best “Bracketeer” NCAA history.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News