March Madness history: A comprehensive guide to the men’s tournament

Here is a comprehensive guide to the NCAA tournament and its history, for college basketball fans of every level.

First, the TL/DR version:

  • The first NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament was played in 1939. 
    • It had eight teams. 
    • Oregon is the first NCAA tournament champion, beating Ohio State for the title.
  • The NCAA tournament field grew to 16 teams in 1951, doubled to 32 in 1975 and expanded to its current size of 64 teams 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 the game coverage ran long.
  • Believe it or not, the NIT (1938) was actually founded before the NCAA tournament. 
    • The NIT field is now usually made up of teams that miss the NCAA tournament.
  • UMBC owns the biggest upset in March Madness history, becoming the first 16-seed to win against a 1-seed. The Retrievers beat No. 1 Virginia 74-54 in 2018.
  • 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.
  • Christian Laettner (Duke), is the NCAA tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 407 points. Only nine players have more than 300 points in March Madness.
  • Notre Dame’s Austin Carr is not among the nine, but he holds the NCAA tournament’s 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’ 149-115 win over Michigan in 1990 is the highest scoring game in March Madness.
  • There have been 80 NCAA tournaments between 1939 and 2019. Kentucky has the most NCAA tournament appearances (58) and NCAA tournament wins (129).
  • UCLA has the most NCAA men’s basketball national championships with 11, including a stretch of seven titles in a row between 1967 and 1973.
  • Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has the most NCAA tournament wins by a single coach (97).

MORE: Browse every NCAA bracket since 1939

When did March Madness start?

The first NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament was in 1939.

Who won the first March Madness?

In 1939, the Oregon Ducks went 29-5 on the season and beat Ohio State 46-33 to win the national title in the first NCAA tournament.

When did March madness expand to 64 teams?

The 1939 tournament featured just eight teams. In 1951, the field doubled to 16, and kept expanding over the next few…

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Read More: March Madness history: A comprehensive guide to the men’s tournament 2023-03-08 15:18:34

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