March Madness Hits University of Kansas

University of Kansas basketball trophies displayed in the university basketball stadium, Allen Fieldhouse (Creative commons photo by proforged on Flickr)
University of Kansas basketball trophies displayed in the university basketball stadium, Allen Fieldhouse (Creative commons photo by proforged on Flickr)

If you are a college student in the U.S., international or American, there are two things in March that create a hiatus in academic life. The first is spring break, which is usually a well-deserved week-long break after the dreaded midterms. And it’s usually about that time that the second – “March Madness” – starts.

For most U.S. college students those two words don’t need any explanation, but for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain a little bit. “March Madness” is the name given to the NCAA’s (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I basketball tournament. This is probably the most important event related to college athletics, and at the University of Kansas I can truly feel the emotions flowing in the air.

KU has a long history of basketball, a fact that usually places us as favorites, and this year is no exception. We’re a number one “seed,” meaning we’re ranked number one in our region.

A big tradition for college basketball is to fill out a bracket of your favorite picks to advance in the March Madness tournament, and compete against your friends for who makes the most accurate predictions. Many channels like ESPN or CBS have online bracket contests, and they give out great prizes for the winner.

And bracket-filling is not exclusively for fans; many public figures get “mad” in March too. NBA champions root for who they think the NCAA champions are going to be, and even the president of the nation couldn’t help to fill a bracket himself. Can you see who is the champion there?

KU mascot and cheerleaders (Creative commons photo by Flickr user bradjward)
KU mascot (the Jayhawk) and cheerleaders (Creative commons photo by Flickr user bradjward)

To get in the national championship teams have to make some merits. There are over 300 schools with division I men basketball teams divided into 32 divisions, and only 68 teams make it to the national “tourney.” There are many different criteria used to determine who gets in March Madness and who doesn’t, like how hard the schedule was, win to lose ratio, and players stats (in the case of KU, we won the regional championship, called the Big 12 tournament). But what is sure is that qualifying schools are the best of the best, and that their students will get very little studying done over the next few weeks.

For international students this is a perfect way to merge with their Americans pairs. At KU basketball has actually helped the growing population of Chinese students to make social connections. They first made their own all-Chinese basketball intramural league and then competed in the other open ones. In my case, living in an all-men small hall where we all know each other, it helped me by giving me one more topic to talk about since everyone here lives for basketball and that ended up rubbing off a little bit on me. And yes, I filled a bracket of my own, with an obvious pick for champion of course.

Well, that’s all for me about March Madness, at least until we come back with the trophy. Enjoy your spring break!