What Is March Madness and How Does It Work?

When you hear the expression ‘March Madness’, it might make you think of spring, of rabbits, or maybe of something totally different! But, it actually refers to the madness that is the American Collegiate Basketball Playoffs. The USA loves its sports, but this one is special even in that incredible tradition.

March Madness brings together sport lovers (and pretty much anyone with a pulse) by getting people involved; last year, more than 17 million people submitted a ‘bracket’ – basically a set of guesses about who will make it through the rounds. 


So, how does it all work? From the terms to the results, we break it all down for you, right here.


Officially called the ‘NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament’, NCAA March Madness is played by 68 teams. Each team comes from a different American college or university, with big names like Duke, Oregon, and Purdue often featured in the later stages of the competition. It is one of the big opportunities for players hoping to be drafted into the NBA to garner attention. 



The competition involves 4 initial rounds, played by geographical groupings and seeded so that stronger teams are separated at first (assuming they win). After the first two rounds, the remaining teams are referred to as the ‘Sweet 16’. Once these teams have played, you are left with the ‘Elite 8’. And after that, you get the ‘Final Four’. 

These final four teams play for the Championship at a preselected, neutral location.


The clue is in the name! Most of the tournament takes place over 3 weekends in March, but the finals are usually played at the start of April.


How to Get Involved

For several years, ESPN’s ‘March Madness Bracket’ competition has drawn fans for its enormous scale, and the unlikely possibility of getting every single result right! With so many games going on, it can seem like a totally ridiculous prospect, but perhaps that’s why people love it! With celebrities and sports stars posting their brackets each year, including people like Barack Obama, it has rapidly become a cultural tradition in the US.

How to Watch

March Madness is broadcasted by CBS in America, who also has deals with TBS, TNT, and truTV. For fans abroad, there is also a live-streaming service that can be accessed (for a fee). 

With so many games, it’s pretty hard to watch everything! However, in the later rounds, it becomes a bit easier to keep track of it all.

March Madness truly is mad, with the feverish atmosphere gripping sports fans everywhere. Much of the excitement comes from the fact that each competition is a single-game (rather than traditional series-style matches like in the NBA). Any champion can have a bad game, and often, March Madness produces incredible giant-slaying performancesWe’re looking forward to it already…