Dan Hurley, head coach of the UConn Huskies men's basketball team, departs for the 2023 NCAA Final Four during a send-off ceremony, March, 29, 2023.

17 March Madness Fun Facts

Every NCAA fan has a dearly held personal memory that ties them to the heart of March Madness. It could be a buzzer-beater that left them leaping from their seats, a Cinderella team defying all odds, or simply the camaraderie and spirit of the season. These moments turn the tournament into a cherished annual tradition.

In today's digital age, a quick search can inundate us with endless facts, stats, and highlight reels of top 10 plays, making it challenging to sift through the noise and find the stories that truly resonate. The essence of March Madness, with its rich history and emotional highs and lows, risks being overshadowed by the sheer volume of data.

We've curated these fun facts about NCAA basketball tournament to enhance your viewing experience and let you connect with the tournament on a more personal level. Join us to celebrate the stories that have made March Madness a highlight on the sports calendar.

March Madness Inauguration

Programs from the first NCAA tournament finale with Oregon vs Ohio.
Photo Credit: Program, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The inaugural NCAA Basketball Tournament was played in 1939, organized by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. It started with only 8 teams. Oregon triumphed over Ohio State with a final score of 46-33 to become the first NCAA Tournament winners (NCAA).

This marked the beginning of a basketball tradition that would capture the hearts of sports enthusiasts nationwide. The tournament expanded first to 16 teams in 1951, then to 32 teams in 1975, and finally to our current 64 teams in 1985.

Nomadic Final Four

The South side of Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2010 NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament (Final Four round) in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo Credit: Manningmbd, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Final Four, the apex of the tournament, transforms each year as it ventures into a different city. Notably, Indianapolis, the NCAA headquarters, will host the Final Four every five years until 2040. This nomadic tradition adds a dynamic flavor to the tournament's atmosphere.

Golden Trophy Glory

Collee Basketball players hold NCAA trophy over their heads after winning final four.
Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman, Michigan Daily, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the thrill of victory, winning universities receive a distinctive trophy – a rectangular, gold-plated masterpiece designed from wood. Unlike other championship trophies made of plastic or metal only, this unique combination of wood and gold plating is a symbol of tradition and triumph. It represents the winning teams' dedication and excellence on the court.

Dual Loyalties Era

Basketball stadium mockup.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

In the early years of the NCAA tournament, college basketball faced a unique dynamic. The event competed for attention with the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), which was held in New York City. Teams were not bound by exclusivity and were free to compete in both tournaments.

Double Triumph for CCNY

A page from the 1963 NCAA Annual National Collegiate Basketball Championship program showing previous tournament winners with the 1950 CCNY Team shown.
Photo Credit: NCAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1949–50 CCNY team etched their names in history with a rare achievement – winning both the NIT and NCAA tournaments. Their victories over Bradley in both competitions would demonstrate a level of dominance never seen again in the college basketball tournaments.

The NIT Dilemma

Players going up for rebound.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

In 1971, the NCAA made a pivotal decision, prohibiting universities from participating in other tournaments, including the NIT, if they received an invitation to the Big Dance (Lawyers Mutual Inc.). This move aimed to elevate the prestige of the NCAA tournament and solidify its status as the premier postseason event.

Trademarking “Final Four”

Depiction of NCAA basketball over basketball court.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

The term “Final Four” officially became part of the NCAA's vocabulary in 1978. Recognizing its significance, the organization swiftly trademarked the name, forever associating it with the climactic stage of the tournament (NCAA). This trademark solidified the unique identity of the event.

Vacated Victory Controversy

Yum Center at the University of Louisville.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

In 2013, the championship won by Louisville and coach Rick Pitino took a controversial turn. It became the first title in the tournament's history to be vacated due to a recruiting scandal, leaving a mark of controversy on an otherwise celebratory moment (NPR).

First-Timer Trifecta

Screenshot of the NCAA site featuring the 2017 Final Four bracket.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Twice in the past decade, the Final Four included the participation of three coaches making their first appearance. The 2019 edition witnessed first-timers Tony Bennett (Virginia), Chris Beard (Texas Tech), and Bruce Pearl (Auburn) stepping onto the coveted stage (NCAA). In 2017, it was Frank Martin (South Carolina), Dana Altman (Oregon), and Mark Few (Gonzaga) making their coaching debuts.

Legendary Coaching

Basketball hoop with blurry background of crowd.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 57 coaches have made their first appearances in the Final Four, bringing with them an average of 12.4 years of coaching experience. This reflects a consistent trend from the tournament's early days, where, in the initial decade (1939-1948), 33 coaches debuted in the Final Four with a similar average experience of 12.1 years.

Notably, three distinguished coaches—Phog Allen, Bo Ryan, and John Beilein—stand out for their prolonged journeys to the Final Four. Each required over three decades of coaching experience to achieve this milestone, cumulatively taking 96 years.

Kansas Five Timer’s 

Black and White photo of basketball on court.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Kansas University holds a unique distinction in the history of NCAA basketball. It is the only school to have five different head coaches reach the Final Four: Bill Self, Roy Williams, Ted Owens, (Richard) Harp, and Phog Allen.

This demonstrates the school's long-standing tradition of basketball excellence and coaching ability. The diverse leadership and strategic depth have propelled Kansas to the forefront of college basketball through the decades.

Broadcasting Legacy

NBC broadcast headquarters in Chicago.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

College basketball's popularity surged in the 1950s and was boosted by television coverage of the NCAA tournament, starting with the national broadcast of the title game in 1954. The championship game's broadcast rights were acquired by Sports Network Incorporated in 1963 for $150,000, leading to the first live, prime-time national broadcast. 

NBC secured tournament broadcast rights in 1968 for $500,000 after a UCLA vs. Houston match drew an unprecedented audience. By 1973, the championship game attracted a record thirty-nine million viewers, marking a new era in the commercial appeal and national visibility of college basketball (OAH).

Bird vs. Magic Showdown

Son and father are watching the basketball game.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

The 1979 championship game between Larry Bird's Indiana State and Magic Johnson's Michigan State holds a unique distinction. It attracted the most television viewers in the history of the tournament, underscoring the cultural significance of the matchup (NCAA).

UCLA's Championship Dominance

Black and White photo of basketball.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

UCLA stands as a powerhouse in NCAA history, securing the most championships with a remarkable 11 titles. Their glory years from 1964 to 1975, including seven consecutive wins from 1967 to 1973, mark a period of unparalleled dominance in college basketball.

Coaching Greats

John Wooden signing basketball.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

John Wooden, with 10 championships, remains the all-time coaching leader in NCAA tournament history. Coach K of Duke follows closely, having led his team to five titles, solidifying his place among the coaching greats of March Madness (ESPN)

UNC's Record Run

Basketball players mockup.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

In 2017, the University of North Carolina (UNC) achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first team to make 20 Final Four appearances. Now at 21 appearances, this record represents the consistent excellence of the UNC basketball program on the grandest stage of college basketball (NBC Sports).

BYU's Final Four Elusiveness

Basketball going through the net.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

BYU holds a distinctive record in NCAA tournament history, making 30 appearances without ever reaching the coveted Final Four (Sportskeeda). Their journey through the tournament is the perfect example of the unpredictability and challenges inherent in the pursuit of March Madness glory.

As March Madness unfolds each year, these diverse and intriguing aspects of the tournament's history contribute to the excitement and anticipation that surround one of the most celebrated events in college sports.

More Amazing March Madness Records

Duke basketball team players running onto court.
Image Credit: Bryan Horowitz, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Unbelievable upsets, incredible comebacks, and heart-pounding points – let's dig into the archives to look at some extraordinary achievements that put the ‘Madness' into March Madness.

Author: Corey Turner

Title: Journalist

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