Celebrating 75 Years of March Madness


Maybe you’ve been too busy to notice, but March Madness will be tipping off on March 19, 2013. While every year for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is a big event, this year is especially unique. Because it’s the 75th Anniversary of the tournament. So, in honor of this historic event, here’s looking back at the legendary tournament with a brief history, best-of lists and some trivia.

“Mad As A March Hare”


While tournaments have been taking place for centuries, the first ever NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament occurred on March 27, 1939, when the University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46–33 in Evanston, Illinois. Initially, the tournament only had eight teams competing, with four schools from the west and four from the east. This format remained like this for the first twelve years. But over the decades, the field has continued to expand. In 1985, for example, the field went from 53 to 64 teams. As of 2011, the tournament features 68 teams, and is broken into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.

Origin of the Term “March Madness”

But, where did the term “March Madness” come from? It’s believed that it was based on the phrase, “Mad As A March Hare.” This phrase can be dated back to the 16th Century to describe the wild, frantic behavior of hares during their mating season — which began in March and ended in late April. Some believe that Canadian politics helped popularize the term. Since the fiscal year ends on April 1 in Canada, funds are spent during March as though they are “mad.”

Regardless of the exact origins, H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association, was the first person to use the term to describe the statewide tournament for boys’ high school basketball in the early 1900s. But, it wasn’t until 1982 that “March Madness” became nationally associated with the NCAA. This occurred after sports reporter Brent Musberger used the term to describe the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Today, “March Madness” is copyrighted and owned by both the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA).

Best-of Lists


Since this season is a milestone for the NCAA, plenty of outlets have been celebrating the 75th Anniversary, most notably ESPN and CBS. So, here are some of their rankings. And if you don’t agree with them, you can vote for your own on NCAA’s site.

Best Player: Lew Alcindor

ESPN has proclaimed Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played from 1966-69 for UCLA, as the best player ever from the tournament. ESPN proclaims Alcindor as a legend who not only helped UCLA win multiple titles, but also “revolutionized the position with his patented hook shot.”

Best Team: UCLA, 1968

Speaking of Alcindor, ESPN writer Dana O’Neil argues that Alcindor’s ‘68 UCLA squad is the top team of the tournament’s history. Alcindor had a remarkable game, 34 points and 16 rebounds, as the Bruins defeated North Carolina 78-55.

Best Coach: John Wooden, UCLA

Sure, Coach K and Bobby Knight may have more wins, but Wooden captured 10 national championships in 12 years. He also had a then-record 88 consecutive wins and was known for his laid-back coaching style. For these reasons, CBS has listed the legend as the top coach of all time.

Biggest Upset: Villanova Beats Georgetown, 1985

CBS, like many other fans, will agree that the biggest upset from the tournament was when the Hoyas lost to Nova by a score of 66-64 in 1985.

Greatest Moment: Laettner’s Buzzer-Beater

ESPN lists the greatest moment in the history of the tournament as Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beating shot in Philadelphia on March 28, 1992. It’s not only become a memorable moment for the NCAA, it has also become an iconic sport’s moment.

The Champ That Never Was: UNLV ’90-’91

CBS has also composed a list of the top 10 champs that never were. That unfortunate honor goes to the ’90-’91 UNLV team when they lost to Duke in the Final Four. The Rebels had beaten Duke by 30 points during the previous year’s championship game and were on a 45-game win streak before their season ended with a heartbreaking 79-77 loss.



  • UCLA has the most NCAA Championships with 11.
  • North Carolina has the most NCAA Final Four appearances with 18.
  • Kentucky has a record 52 tournament appearances, as well as most victories with 111.
  • Austin Carr of Notre Dame had a record 61 points against Ohio in 1970.
  • The 103–73 UNLV victory over Duke remains the largest margin of victory in a championship game.

Images via Wikipedia

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