I apologize for not being clear in my post last week. I hope I can clear some things up here. The physical structure of the tournament looks like this:
(If you click on the picture, it will display bigger)
Since 2011, the NCAA has been allowing 68 teams into the tournament (before 2011, the tournament consisted of 65 teams). There are two ways to earn bids into this tournament. The first way is to earn an “automatic bid” by winning your conference tournament. The second way is to be selected by the NCAA selection committee as an “at-large” bid. Each year, there are 32 “automatic bids” and 38 “at-large” bids. Once these 68 teams have been selected, they are ranked by the selection committee 1 through 68. The lowest four “at-large” bids and the lowest four “automatic” bids are forced to play in the First Four to earn a spot on the main bracket (as seen in the picture. The First Four games are listed above the bracket.) After selecting these teams, the selection committee uses the rankings to put each team into a region comprised of 16 teams. After the First Four, in the first round of the tournament the 1 seed in each region plays the 16 seed, the 2 seed plays the 15 seed, and s0 on. These can be seen in the picture. The focus of my post last week was on the First Four.
Teams from the First Four have been very successful in the tournament. A sixteen seed tht played in the First Four has yet to beat a number one seed in the tournament (since the expansion to 64 teams, no sixteen seed has beaten a number one seed, so this is not surprising), however, the “at-large” teams have been successful. In 2011 (the first year of the First Four), VCU was selected for the First Four. After winning their game in the First Four, they made it all the way to the Final Four. In 2012, South Florida won the First Four game and made it to the second round in the tournament. Last year, LaSalle won the First Four game and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament. This year Tennessee has made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (they play Friday night to see if they can advance to the next round).
There has been much success from the at-large teams who made the First Four. The automatic qualifiers have no had the same success, but they are two different situations. I hope this makes a little more sense. I apologize if it doesn’t, it’s hard for me to explain this to non-basketball people.
Now onto my post for this week! I was going to write about something else this week, but I am going to save that idea for when the tournament is over. All I can say about this past weekend is phew! I don’t think I have ever been more mentally drained from a weekend of basketball in my entire life. Each game has been a nail biter (and unfortunately for me, the majority of teams I wanted to win, lost).
Every single game has been exciting (barring the round of 32 games from Sunday night) and the games for this week look even better! There have been plenty of upsets, close games, and surprises. Dayton and Stanford are in the Sweet Sixteen. Duke lost again in the first round to 14 seed Mercer. Tennessee has marched from the First Four to the Sweet Sixteen. UCONN upset their old Big East rivals Villanova in a thriller on Saturday night. Number one seed, Wichita State, lost to Kentucky in one of the best tournament games I have ever seen (If I can find a a replay of it online, I’ll post it. It is definitely worth the watch if you have time. Here are some highlights for the meantime)
And this weekend’s games look just as exciting. San Diego State gets a rematch against Arizona to get revenge for an early season loss. Kentucky and Louisville match up in the battle for the Blue Grass state in one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. Dayton plays Stanford in a match up of Cinderellas. UCONN heads back to Madison Square for a match up against Iowa State. And these are only half of the games! You guys will be reading this on Friday, so you won’t see the Thursday games, but if you have time, I’d definitely watch some of these games. They look to be exciting and by the end of the weekend, we will have our Final Four!