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NCAA Basketball: How March Madness Came to Life

The biggest annual tournament on the sports betting calendar is just around the corner. Here’s how March Madness got started in the first place.

NCAA College Basketball: March Madness

March Madness is college basketball’s version of Darwin’s survival of the fittest. Every year, 68 teams enter the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, and one by one, they’re eliminated as the stronger team moves ahead, facing tougher competition with every round. And in the end, the strongest team of them all takes home the hardware.

That means there are 68 spots to be filled in your March Madness brackets, which has become an annual ritual for millions of fans across North America. Here’s how this basketball tournament became one of the most important events on the sports betting calendar at Bodog.

The History of NCAA College Basketball

It all began in 1891 with those famous peach baskets. Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball when he was a gym teacher at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. The sport proved very popular, and quickly spread to high schools before Naismith’s colleague, CO Beamis, started the first college basketball team in 1892 at Geneva College in Pittsburgh.

A number of different groups tried to take control over how these games were organized. In 1906, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was established, largely in response to President Theodore Roosevelt’s push to regulate college football and make the game safer. In 1910, the IAAUS changed its name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which controls the highest levels of college hoops to this day.

The Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, one year after the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) was born. In the beginning, the winner of the NIT was considered the top team in college hoops, but that would change over the years; the NCAA has since purchased the NIT, which is now a second-tier tournament for teams who do not get invited to what has become familiarly known as March Madness.

March Madness: Filling A Bracket

People have been filling in March Madness tournament brackets for roughly 40 years, and so far, nobody has correctly predicted all the winners for the entire tournament. And no wonder: the odds of doing that are somewhere around 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. The closest anyone on record has gotten to filling out the brackets perfectly is the first 34 games.

Don’t sweat hitting the perfect bracket, though. In most contests, all you need to do is finish with a better score than the rest of the contestants; points are awarded for each correct pick, with the points usually escalating as the Tournament progresses. And winning the jackpot isn’t the only reason people fill in their March Madness brackets. Every year, nearly 60 million Americans fill out these brackets, often just to give them an extra reason to cheer along as the action unfolds.

The Upsets

The NCAA Tournament is known for upsets. What may seem like a lopsided matchup on paper often turns into an unexpected result. That’s especially true in the First Round – we haven’t seen all of the top 16 overall seeds survive the opening round since 2007, and it’s happened just five times since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Thinking of betting on one of the four No. 1 seeds to go the distance? While that’s generally a good strategy, only once (in 2008) have all four top seeds made the Final Four, which goes to show how much value there is on the college basketball futures market for lower-seeded teams. We even saw a No. 16 seed, the UMBC Retrievers, beat the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers in the First Round of the 2018 Tournament, the first time a 16-seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed at March Madness.

With so many excellent teams getting invited to the Big Dance, almost anyone can erase a big deficit at any time – just ask the Texas A&M Aggies. In 2016, they somehow erased an 8-point deficit against the Northern Iowa Panthers with 34 seconds left in their Second Round game, eventually winning 92-88 in double overtime. So if you think you’ve lost your March Madness bet, or are planning to turn off your TV early because one team looks defeated, don’t write it off. In college basketball, it’s not over until it’s over.

Top Five NCAAB Players of All-Time

The thing that makes March Madness so great is the players themselves. These are some of the best young athletes in the world; many will go on to have successful careers in the NBA and overseas. It’s impossible to rank the best college basketball players of all-time and get everyone to agree, but to wet your whistle for this year’s tournament, here’s our top five:

1. Lew Alcindor

Arguably the greatest basketball player period, Alcindor played for John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins from 1966 to 1969, and was named NCAA Tournament MVP all three times. The 7-foot-2 centre was drafted first overall by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, led them to their first title in 1971, and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

2. Pete Maravich

“Pistol Pete” Maravich was a standout point guard for the LSU Tigers from 1967-68 through 1969-70. He still leads Division I in career scoring, putting up 44.2 points per game and earning multiple College Player of the Year awards. Unfortunately, his Tigers never won the Tournament, and Maravich’s NBA career was hampered by knee injuries.

3. Bill Walton

Walton also played three years at centre for Wooden’s UCLA squad between 1971-72 and 1973-74, and was named College Player of the Year every time, winning two titles along the way. The Bruins won a record 88 straight games with Walton on board, including back-to-back 30-0 seasons. Again, foot injuries limited Walton’s NBA career, but he won two more titles with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics.

4. Oscar Robertson

“The Big O” was the Cincinnati Bearcats’ point guard from 1957 to 1960, and like Walton, was named POY all three seasons. Robertson was the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer before Maravich broke his record. The Bearcats made the Final Four twice, then Robertson won an NBA title alongside Alcindor in 1971.

5. David Thompson

Another three-time POY for the North Carolina State Wolfpack between 1972 and 1975, Thompson led NC State to their first NCAA title in 1974, beating Walton’s Bruins in the semifinals. The 6-foot-4 wing became a four-time NBA All-Star before injuries and substance abuse cut his career short in 1984.


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