25 Facts You Don’t Know About March Madness

March Madness, the Big Dance, your annual ‘sick day,’ whatever you decide to call the NCAA Tournament, it’s become the most popular American sporting event not named the Super Bowl. Below are some facts I bet you didn’t know. 

The History

“March Madness” was born in Illinois, according to the IHSA website.

“March Madness” was born in Illinois. The annual tournament of high school boys basketball teams, sponsored by the Illinois High School Association, grew from a small invitational affair in 1908 to a statewide institution with over 900 schools competing by the late 1930’s. A field of teams known as the “Sweet Sixteen” routinely drew sellout crowds to the University of Illinois’ Huff Gymnasium. In a time before television, before the college game became popular with the average fan, before professional leagues had established a foothold in the nation’s large cities, basketball fever had already reached epidemic proportions in the Land of Lincoln … Henry V. Porter, assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association, was so impressed by the phenomenon that he wrote an essay to commemorate it. Entitled “March Madness,” it first appeared in the Illinois Interscholastic, the IHSA’s magazine, in 1939. The term struck a chord with newspapermen, who used it throughout their pages. During the tournament’s “Golden Era” of the 1940’s and 1950’s, “March Madness” became the popular name of the event. 

Brent Musburger was the first to use the term ‘March Madness’ on air. 

The phrase was only used during the Illinois high-school tournament until 1982 when the CBS broadcaster and ex-Chicago Daily News sportswriter used it in his NCAA Tournament coverage. 

The NCAA and IHSA went to court over the term ‘March Madness.’

The two sides eventually agreed to form the March Madness Athletic Association, with the IHSA controlling the rights at the high-school level only.

Hebron (Illinois) was the real-life Hoosiers.

The movie Hoosiers was inspired by the Milan (Indiana) H.S. 1954 basketball team. Although called ‘Hickory’ in the movie, Milan won the state title with an enrollment of just 161 during a time when state tournaments weren’t separated by school size. However, it was Hebron who took the state title in Illinois in 1952 with a school population of just 98.

The first NCAA Tournament kicked off in 1939 with only eight teams.

The championship was played in Northwestern’s Evanston campus between the Oregon Webfoots and the Ohio State Buckeyes in front of an ‘almost sold out’ crowd of 5,500, with Dr. James Naismith — the inventor of basketball — in attendance. Oregon won 46-33.

The first tournament put the NCAA in the red.

That fist tournament in 1939 cost the NCAA about $2,500 ($35,000 today). In 1940 the tournament turned a profit for the first time.

The NCAA has a history of adding more teams every 20 years or so.

The tournament grew to 16 teams in 1951 before varying between 22 to 25 teams into the early 1970s. 32 teams were used from the years 1975 to 1985 before reaching the expansion of 64 teams. In 2011, the NCAA agreed to allow 68 teams in the field. 

The NIT used to be the premiere basketball event

The ‘National Invitational Tournament,’ held at Madison Square Garden in New York, used to be considered the way to determine the national championship.


As late as 1970, Marquette coach Al McGuire chose the NIT over the NCAA tournament because his team had been placed in the Midwest Regional rather than close to home in the Mideast Regional. After that, the NCAA barred any school that declined a bid in its tourney from playing postseason games elsewhere. An antitrust lawsuit ensued decades later, but the NCAA settled it in 2005 as part of a deal in which it purchased the NIT. These days, the NIT is a consolation tournament, open to those teams that don’t make the cut for March Madness.

The 1966 tournament was a turning point racially

That was the year Texas Western (now known as UTEP) became the first team with an all-black starting lineup to win the national championship.

The Records

Austin Carr has the record for most points in a game with 61.

In 1970, the Notre Dame shooting guard dropped 61 against Ohio in the first round. The closest anyone has come to breaking that record was when Navy center David Robinson scored 50 in 1987. 

Christian Laettner of Duke has the record for most career points.

407 – 1989-92 (23 games)

LMU has the record for most points by a team in one game.

149 vs. Michigan, who scored 115 in this 2nd round game in 1990. This game also holds the record for most points scored between two teams in a contest. 

UCLA and Kentucky dominate.

UCLA has the record for most championships with 11 titles, but Kentucky has the most wins all-time, with well over 100.

The Play

All four No. 1 seeds have only advanced to the Final Four just one time.

Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA in 2008.

A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed

The closest call was in 1989 when Princeton lost 50-49 to Alonzo Mourning’s Georgetown Hoyas.  

A No. 11 seed is the lowest seed to make the Final Four.

LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011.

Northwestern has never made the NCAA Tournament.

The Big Ten program is the only school within the ‘power six’ conferences to have never made one bid.

Villanova as an #8 seed is the lowest seed to ever win the tournament.


The longest game took 4 overtime periods to settle.

Canisius (79) vs. North Carolina St. (78), 1st R, 3-12-1956

Marquette and Kentucky have met 10 times in the NCAA tournament.

The record for most matchups between two teams in the tourney — they’re not in the same conference. 

#15 seeds have advanced to the 2nd round just 7 times.

Coppin St. 1997, Hampton 2001, Richmond 1991, Santa Clara 1993, Norfolk State 2012, Lehigh 2012, Florida Gulf Coast 2013

Related: Jimmy Fallon Pokes Fun At March Madness

The highest rated game game all-time was Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson in 1979, which was seen by 17.9 million households.

The NBC game had a 24 share on March 26, 1979 – Michigan State vs. Indiana State.

Since 1986, the championship team gets the winning court as well.

We all see them cut down the nets, but they get the actual court too, splitting it up for memorabilia. 

For You To Consider

You will never fill out a perfect bracket.

The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are one in 9,223,372, 036,854,775,808 (quintillion)

Vasectomies rise sometimes up to 50% in the days leading up to the NCAA tournament.

No lie. 

Josh Helmuth is the editor of CraveOnline Sports.

Photo Credit: Getty