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March Madness - When the NCAA overtakes the NBA in popularity

Normally, there is no basketball competition in the world that can compete with the NBA. This is, after all, the very pinnacle of the sport where the best players in the world compete. However, during one crazy month each year, college basketball is the focus of attention.

March Madness Tournament

First created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament is effectively the national championships for college teams. After starting out originally with just eight teams, when Oregon Ducks were the inaugural tournament champions, the format has changed a number of times over the years.

The number of competing teams rose to 16 in 1951, then 32 in 1974. Since 1985 when the modern format began, there have been 64 teams in the main tournament. Since 2011, four more teams have been added, forming a preliminary round known as the First Four, competing for places amongst the 64 teams of the tournament proper. The phrase "March Madness" was actually coined by Henry V. Porter back in 1939, who was an Illinois high school official. Nevertheless, it didn't become directly related to the NCAA basketball tournament until 1982, when CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger used the phrase during coverage of the event.

March Madness Predictions

Arguably one of the most attractive elements of March Madness is predicting the brackets. Indeed, this has become so popular amongst Americans, even people who don't usually follow sports are known to get involved, making it the ultimate annual sweepstakes.

Millions of participants fill out their NCAA Tournament brackets each year. Some do so via the websites of mainstream media outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports, who are providing coverage of the games. Others fill out brackets with dedicated websites, and while placing March Madness game bets at the Betway online sportsbook.

But there's a catch to brackets, rather than wagering on individual games. Trying to predict all 63 games in the latter stages of the tournament is practically impossible, and to date nobody has ever done that. According to a recent Betway blog, the odds of correctly picking 63 winning teams is one in 9.2 quintillion. Still, broadcasters and websites offer prizes to those who make the most correct guesses.

March Madness Popularity

While it's no secret that Americans love college sports, just as much as professional sports in most cases, the growth in popularity of the NCAA March Madness Tournament has been phenomenal in recent decades.

Basketball fans often turn their attention away from the NBA for a little while, focusing on the college games instead, during the three frenzied weeks of March Madness. As college teams battle for supremacy, there's also the chance to see potential NBA stars of the future, eager to make their mark and impress at the tournament.

In fact, , the NCAA Tournament is estimated to be second only to the Super Bowl, in terms of TV audiences attracted. With so many games in play, from the First Round through to the Championship game, many games are played and broadcast simultaneously.