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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

Thursday the 16th starts the NCAA Tournament.  I know the play-in games were Tuesday but I say the tournament really starts Thursday.  The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is basically a national holiday.  People either take off from work or watch games at work.  Either way, bosses probably shouldn’t expect much to get done those first two days of the tournament.  Let’s turn the clock back, though.  What are the origins of the NCAA tournament? That and more will be answered in the following paragraphs.

The first NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament was played in 1939.  The tournament consisted of eight teams.  Oregon was the first NCAA Tournament champion, beating Ohio State for the title.  The tournament field grew to 16 teams in 1951, doubled to 32 teams in 1975, expanded to 64 in 1985.  An opening round game was introduced in 2001.  Three more games were added to that round in 2011 for the inaugural First Four.  

The term “March Madness” was first used in reference to basketball by an Illinois high school official, Henry V. Porter, in 1939.  March Madness wouldn’t become associated with the NCAA Tournament until Brent Musberger used it during coverage of the 1982 tournament.  One Shining Moment, the anthem of March Madness, was first aired following the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1987.  It was initially scheduled to run after Super Bowl XXI but game coverage ran long.  

Believe it or not, the NIT was actually founded a year before the NCAA Tournament.  The NIT field is now usually made up of teams that miss the NCAA tournament, with the first four that missed the NCAA’s being the #1 seeds in the NIT.  The owner of the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history is UMBCm becoming the first and so far only 16 seed to beat a 1, when the Retrievers beat overall 1 seed Virginia 74-54 in 2018.  I guess you could say those were some golden Retrievers that year! 

Duke owns the largest comeback and second-largest lead blown in NCAA tournament history.  The 2001 Blue Devils stormed back to beat Maryland after being down 22 points while Duke’s 1989 team lost despite leading Seton Hall by 18.  The top 5 scorers in the NCAA Tournament’s history are

5.  Glen Rice, Michigan: 308 points from 1986-89

4.  Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati : 324 points  from 1958-60

3.  Danny Manning, Kansas: 328 points from 1985-88.

2.  Elvin Hayes, Houston: 358 points from 1966-68.  Number one pains me to no end to write but here we go….

1.  Christian Laettner, Duke: 407 points from 1989-1992.  All American, AP Player of the Year, Wooden and Naismith award winner as well as a lowdown dirty cheat. That last tidbit was mine.  The rest is from 

Notre Dame’s Austin Carr holds the NCAA single-game scoring record with 61 points in a 1970 game against Ohio.  Loyola Marymount is part of the three highest scoring games in NCAA Tournament history.  The Lions’ 145-115 win over Michigan in 1990 is the highest scoring game in March Madness.  There have been 80 NCAA Tournaments between 1939 and 2019(this is a pre-Covid survey. Obviously).  At that time, Kentucky had the most NCAA Tournament appearances(58) and tournament wins(129).  UCLA has the most men’s basketball national championships(11), including a stretch of 7 titles in a row between 1967-’73.  Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has the most NCAA tournament wins by a single coach (97). (

I’ll probably be breaking down each weekend’s tournament action in my podcast, Blendertainment, which you can access at the links below.  Happy tournamnet viewing!


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