What began in 1939 with the University of Oregon’s “Tall Firs” winning the first men’s NCAA basketball championship before 5,500 spectators has grown into March Madness. The three-week tournament begins with a few undercard games Tuesday night (one attended by President Obama), but things start in earnest Thursday and Friday with 64 teams in the main draw getting into action in eight cities. Utlimately the road leads to New Orleans, the site of this season’s Final Four on March 31 and April 2. Here’s a collection of random facts to help you enjoy the tournament:
2. Syracuse had its best regular season ever, but the team could be in trouble after it was announced Tuesday that center Fab Melo will not play in the NCAA tournament due to what the school called an "eligibility issue," the New York Times reported.
3. In an oddity, three of the four top seeds – Kentucky, Syracuse, and North Carolina – enter the tournament after being upset in their conference tournaments.
4. Connecticut, the defending national champion, enters the tournament with a 20-13 record. The Huskies will have to sit out next year’s “Big Dance” because of their poor academic performance.
5. Butler University in Indianapolis, the Cinderella that managed to reach the championship game the last two seasons, did not make the tournament this year. But Virginia Commonwealth, a big surprise in 2011, did.
6. Pat Knight, the son of Bob Knight, has coached Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, to its first NCAA berth since 2000. A few weeks ago he called his seniors “the worst group” he’d ever been associated with.
9. Sportscaster Brent Musburger is credited with popularizing the use of “March Madness” in referring to the tournament in the 1980s.
10. This year the tournament concludes in New Orleans at the Superdome, where four previous championship games have been decided by an average of 2.7 points.
12. The highest scoring player in this year’s tournament is Creighton’s Doug McDermott (23.1 points per game), who leads the nation’s most accurate shooting team (50.9 percent).
13. The stingiest defensive team in the nation: Wisconsin, which gives up only 51.8 points a game.