What’s the month of March best known for? There’s Easter Sunday, of course, and St. Patrick’s Day can be kind of special to anybody who is Irish and/or of legal drinking age. But what does the month of March mean for sports fans? Well, basketball, of course! That’s because March is when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament takes place, featuring the players destined to become future stars in the NBA! Commonly referred to as “March Madness,” the 2016 tournament will feature a whopping 68 teams competing for the coveted championship. But when do March Madness games start and where is the March Madness championship game held at the end of it all?
For those who aren’t very sports-savvy, the NCAA tournament began in 1939, suggested by Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen. The tournament sees 68 teams from division I—the highest level of college athletics, so in other words, the oldest and most skilled—with 32 being conference champions, thereby being awarded with automatic bids, while the other half are chosen by a selection committee, with the decision being broadcast across the United States. The tournament, which is single elimination (one loss and you’re out), begins with four games between eight teams at the bottom of the rankings, before starting proper, with games being played over three weekends at neutral arenas (so no home-court advantage). The “Final Four” teams, one from each region (East, South, West, and Midwest) usually play in the first weekend of April.
This year, the “First Four” games will take place on March 15 and March 16. The first round of March Madness begins on March 17, with the first round being played that day and the following one (March 18). The winning teams will see no rest, as the second round runs over the next two days (March 19 and 20). A Reprieve comes shortly after that, as the remaining “Sweet 16” won’t play until March 24-25. The “Elite Eight” will follow on the 26th and 27th, before the Final Four on April 2, with the two semi-final games taking place in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium. Finally, the championship game will take place on April 4 in the same arena.
Many events will take place in Houston to coincide with the Final Four, the biggest likely being the three days of free concerts running on the first three days of April. Scheduled acts include big names like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Flo Rida, Maroon 5, and Pitbull. Everyone is welcome to attend, though there are strict rules regarding bags, likely stemming from fears created by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Other goings-on will also take place in the city, including a tailgate party, fan fest, and events especially for children.
For those unable to make the trek to Houston, Texas, all the games will be broadcast on TV, though they will be split between several networks, including CBS, TBS, truTV, and TNT. However, only the schedule for the first round is available, so we don’t know who will air the Final Four and championship game. It appears a live stream of the games will be available on the NCAA web site as well.