At Vogue.com, March Madness can mean a number of things. 1) We have not one, not two, but five Fashion Weeks to cover this month! 2) The crazy weather pattern that has us in summer dresses one day and a long fur coat the next, or 3) We are creating our Fall 2016 trend guides, working on our Spring 2016 shopping guides, and planning ahead for summer 2016 stories—all in the same week! But one thing it almost never refers to is the NCAA basketball tournament. If looking at a bracket stresses you out, or you don’t even know what a bracket is, you’re in the right place. Here, all you need to know to impress any sports fan this month!
What is March Madness?
The NCAA Division I men’s and women’s college basketball tournament that happens almost entirely in March, though the finals always fall in April.
How many teams play?
The men’s bracket starts with 68 teams, but before the tournament kicks off on Thursday afternoon, the eight lowest-seeded teams play one another in single-elimination games. The four losing teams are eliminated from the tournament, and the remaining four become part of the official group of 64.
How does it work?
The final 64 teams are evenly divided into four regions—South, East, West, and Midwest. The name of each region reflects the cities in which the regional finals are played, not where the teams are located. You only play the teams in your region until one team is left in each region. The whole tournament is single elimination, meaning if you lose, you’re out. Each winning team moves on to the next round, and there are six rounds total, including the finals. The rounds you might have heard of before are Sweet 16, Elite Eight, and Final Four.
So which team is going to win?
It is nearly impossible (1 in 9.2 quintillion to be exact) to predict who is going to win all of the games, but the top-seeded men’s teams in each region are Kansas, UNC, Oregon, and UVA. The number one team will play the number 16 team in their region in the first round, and so on. Theoretically, the higher you are ranked, the more you are likely to win. But keep in mind, the tournament is known for upsets; just because teams are number one doesn’t mean they will make it to the Final Four—that would be a pretty boring bracket. 2008 was the only year that all four teams in the Final Four were ranked number one in their regions.
The women’s games are not as publicized, but UConn has won the past three years in a row. No surprise, they are undefeated this season, a top seeded pick in the tournament, and aiming to get their fourth consecutive tournament championship. Go Huskies!
What other teams are good?
In addition to the top seeded teams in each region, these are ones you should keep your eye on: Kentucky, Purdue, Gonzaga, Duke, and Maryland.
How do I fill out a bracket?
The official bracket competition is at bracketchallenge.ncaa.com. ESPN and CBS Sports also have pools in which you and your friends can fill out brackets and compete against one another. If all of these tips are too overwhelming, let the data do the talking—Bing launched its bracket prediction tool this morning, Bing Predicts, using more than a decade’s worth of data to decide what it thinks will be the perfect bracket. Its Final Four teams are Kansas, UNC, Michigan State, and Duke, with the finals between Kansas and UNC and Kansas winning the whole thing. But if data isn’t really your thing, people base their choices on team colors, coin flips, distance to the school, picking names out of a hat, and even which mascot would win in a battle. So with that, good luck, and may the best team win.
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