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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of the most exciting events in sports.  That is why there are more than 70 million brackets that get filled out.

That pales in comparison to the estimated $2.5 billion bet on the games.  It is one of the busiest times for college basketball betting and fans alike.

You might refer to it as March Madness or the Big Dance as so many others do.  Even if you look forward to the Tournament each year, have you stopped to think about its history?

This article takes a step back and shows you how March Madness has evolved into what it is today and maybe helps you find an angle or two to help predict who will win the NCAA tournament this year.

Since the first NCAA Tournament in 1939, we have seen the field expand to 68 teams.

It’s also safe to say that no other event has conjured up more friendly wagering in the form of bracket pools.

March Madness: Men’s NCAA College Basketball Tournament History

Number of Teams in the Field

From 1939-1950 the college basketball tournament consisted of just 8 teams.

The field doubled over the next two years and would feature 22-25 teams from 1953-1974.

It became more standardized in 1975 when the number was set at 32. That only lasted 3 seasons before it was increased to 40 teams in 1979. Just one year later, the field jumped to 48 teams.

The field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. That lasted until 2001 when we added a play-in game to make it 65.

The bracket grew to 68 in 2011, as we added three more play-in games.

Think the play-in game is a new thing? The tournament actually held four play-in games in 1983 and five in 1984.

As of right now, there are 32 automatic invites given to the conference champions. The committee then selects 36 at-large teams to fill the rest of the field.

Incredible Underdog Wins

There have been several big upsets throughout the years.

There have been two #14 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16. Cleveland St did it first in 1986 and Chattanooga followed suit in 1977.

In 2002, #12 seed Missouri made an incredible run to the Elite 8.

LSU advanced to the Final 4 in 1986 as a #11 seed. A feat that has since been duplicated by George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011).

Four #8 seeds have advanced to the title game. UCLA in 1980, Villanova in 1985, Butler in 2011, and Kentucky in 2014. Those are the lowest in history.  Of the four only Villanova managed to win it all.

In 2014, the national championship game saw #7 seed Connecticut defeat #8 seed Kentucky.

That is the highest total for two teams (combined seeds) since the field moved to 64 teams in 1985.

We are still waiting on the biggest Cinderella story to unfold, as we have yet to see a #16 seed defeat a #1 seed.

If you want more information on the seeds check out how far each seed has gone and the winning percentages by seed.

Strongest Dynasty

There have also been some incredible college basketball dynasties formed by NCAA tournament success.

None bigger than the UCLA Bruins. UCLA won 10 titles in 12 seasons from 1964 to 1975, including 7 in a row during one stretch. They went undefeated a record 4 times during this run.

List of Past Final Four Teams, Winners & Championship Game Scores

Most Final Four Appearances (Teams with Five or More)

20North Carolina
17Kentucky, UCLA
10Michigan St, Ohio St
8Indiana, Louisville
6Arkansas, Cincinnati, Oklahoma St, Syracuse, Michigan
5Connecticut, Florida, Georgetown, Houston, Illinois, Oklahoma, Villanova

Championship Game History

YearChampion (Record)ScoreRunner-Up
2020No Tournament (Covid-19)N/AN/A
2019Virginia (35-3)85-77Texas Tech
2018Villanova (36-4)79-62Michigan
2017North Carolina (33-7)71-65Gonzaga
2016Villanova (35-5)77-74North Carolina
2015Duke (35-4)68-63Wisconsin
2014Connecticut (32-8)60-54Kentucky
2013Louisville (35-5)82-76Michigan
2012Kentucky (38-2)67-59Kansas
2011Connecticut (32-9)53-41Butler
2010Duke (35-5)61-59Butler
2009North Carolina (34-4)89-72Michigan St
2008Kansas (37-3)75-68 (OT)Memphis
2007Florida (35-5)84-75Ohio State
2006Florida (33-6)73-57UCLA
2005North Carolina (33-4)75-70Illinois
2004Connecticut (33-6)82-73Georgia Tech
2003Syracuse (30-5)81-78Kansas
2002Maryland (32-4)64-52Indiana
2001Duke (35-4)82-72Arizona
2000Michigan State (32-7)89-76Florida
1999Connecticut (34-2)77-74Duke
1998Kentucky (35-4)78-69Utah
1997Arizona (25-9)84-79 (OT)Kentucky
1996Kentucky (34-2)76-67Syracuse
1995UCLA (31-2)89-78Arkansas
1994Arkansas (31-3)76-72Duke
1993North Carolina (34-4)77-71Michigan
1992Duke (34-2)71-51Michigan
1991Duke (32-7)72-65Kansas
1990UNLV (35-5)103-73Duke
1989Michigan (30-7)80-79 (OT)Seton Hall
1988Kansas (27-11)83-79Oklahoma
1987Indiana (30-4)74-73Syracuse
1986Louisville (32-7)72-69Duke
1985Villanova (25-10)66-64Georgetown
1984Georgetown (34-3)84-75Houston
1983North Carolina State (26-10)54-52Houston
1982North Carolina (32-2)63-62Georgetown
1981Indiana (26-9)63-50North Carolina
1980Louisville (33-3)59-54UCLA
1979Michigan State (26-6)75-64Indiana St
1978Kentucky (30-2)94-88Duke
1977Marquette (25-7)67-59North Carolina
1976Indiana (32-0)86-68Michigan
1975UCLA (28-3)92-85Kentucky
1974North Carolina State (30-1)76-64Marquette
1973UCLA (30-0)87-66Memphis St
1972UCLA (30-0)81-76Florida St
1971UCLA (29-1)68-62Villanova
1970UCLA (28-2)80-69Jacksonville
1969UCLA (29-1)92-72Purdue
1968UCLA (29-1)78-55North Carolina
1967UCLA (30-0)79-64Dayton
1966UTEP (28-1)72-65Kentucky
1965UCLA (28-2)91-80Michigan
1964UCLA (30-0)98-83Duke
1963Loyola (Ill.) (29-2)60-58 (OT)Cincinnati
1962Cincinnati (29-2)71-59Ohio St
1961Cincinnati (27-3)70-65 (OT)Ohio St
1960Ohio State (25-3)75-55California
1959California (25-4)71-70West Virginia
1958Kentucky (23-6)84-72Seattle
1957North Carolina (32-0)54-53 (3OT)Kansas
1956San Francisco (29-0)83-71Iowa
1955San Francisco (28-1)77-63LaSalle
1954La Salle (26-4)92-76Bradley
1953Indiana (23-3)69-68Kansas
1952Kansas (28-3)80-63St. John’s
1951Kentucky (32-2)68-58Kansas St
1950CCNY (24-5)71-68Bradley
1949Kentucky (32-2)46-36Oklahoma A&M
1948Kentucky (36-3)58-42Baylor
1947Holy Cross (27-3)58-47Oklahoma
1946Oklahoma State (31-2)43-40North Carolina
1945Oklahoma State (27-4)49-45NYU
1944Utah (21-4)42-40 (OT)Dartmouth
1943Wyoming (31-2)46-34Georgetown
1942Stanford (28-4)53-38Dartmouth
1941Wisconsin (20-3)39-34Washington St
1940Indiana (20-3)60-42Kansas
1939Oregon (29-5)46-33Ohio St

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