Sunday Scroll
From The GIST Team

Happy Selection Sunday!

Welcome to The GIST’s Sunday Scroll, where we dive deep into one timely sports topic.

May this St. Paddy’s Day bring a pot o’ gold to your favorite college basketball teams, because after a wild season, the 2023–24 NCAA Tournament, aka March Madness or “The Big Dance,” is finally here.

Quote of The Day
Quote I think we do deserve a No. 1 seed…. It would just mean a lot to our program and how far we've come to have that recognition. But if we don't get it, we're going to play the same basketball we would if we were 1, 2, 3, 4. It doesn't matter.
No. 2 Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder celebrates while wearing the Big Ten Championship net her Hawkeyes cut down after defeating Nebraska 94–89 in overtime for the conference title on Sunday, March 10th.

— No. 2 Iowa women’s basketball head coach (HC) Lisa Bluder on what snagging one of the four No. 1 seeds in tonight’s March Madness selection show would mean for her Hawkeyes. Let the bedlam begin!

The Scroll

📖 The history

Ohio State center John Schick sinks a layup against eventual champ Oregon at the first NCAA men's basketball championship game on March 27th, 1939.
Source: NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The NCAA Division I (DI) men’s basketball tournament started in 1939 with just eight teams. The field grew to 16 squads in 1951, doubled again to 32 in 1975, and reached 64 teams in 1985.

  • In 2011, four games, known as the “First Four,” were added prior to the first round, giving us the 68 playoff teams we see today.

The term “March Madness” was first used in 1939 for an Illinois high school basketball tournament, but wasn’t associated with the college tourney until broadcaster Brent Musburger used it while covering the 1982 championship.

The first women’s NCAA tournament began in 1982 — 43 years after the men’s debut — with 32 teams. The field slowly expanded, reaching 64 squads in 1994 and growing to an equitable 68 teams in 2022. Better late than never.

🤔 How it works

An NCAA selection committee member clutches his head in concentration over a March Madness–branded computer.
Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

All 360 women’s and 362 men’s DI squads aim to play in March Madness, and there are a couple of paths they can take to the tourney.

  • Thirty-two automatic berths are given to the teams who win one of the 32 DI conference tournaments. Teams who don’t win conference crowns must hope their season performance will earn them one of the 36 at-large bids.

A committee of 12 members makes the final (somewhat subjective) decision on the aforementioned “at-large” teams using the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). There are sure to be some disappointed squads who aren’t selected, so prep for some, ahem, colorful reactions tonight.

  • Along with deciding who makes the cut, the selection committee determines tournament seeding, awarding squads seeds from Nos. 1 through 16 in each of the bracket’s four quadrants. The better the seed, the easier the path — at least in theory — to the ’ship.
  • As for teams in those “First Four” games, the lowest-ranked at-large selections will duke it out for a No. 11 seed, while the lowest-ranked automatic qualifiers will fight for a No. 16 seed in the 64-team bracket.

After Selection Sunday, the stakes skyrocket in the single-elimination tournaments. Lose one game and it’s sayonara to your season, a dynamic that always brings exciting and shocking upsets.

📈 Bracketology

The yet-to-be-filled-in 2024 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket
Source: NCAA

One of the best parts of March Madness? The brackets. While it’s fun to sit back and watch college basketball at its best, it's even better when bragging rights (and cold, hard cash) are on the line.

The March Madness bracket craze began at a bar in Staten Island, New York, in 1977, when 88 people joined a prize pool and filled out their own tournament predictions.

  • By 2006, 150K folks entered that same Staten Island bar challenge and the prize pool swelled to $1.5M. The Feds took notice and shut down the unofficial competition, but by then the bracket tradition was already alive and well.

Millions are expected to fill out a tournament bracket this year despite the mere one in 9.2 quintillion chance of selecting 100% perfect picks. Folks from all walks of life join in on the fun, including President Joe Biden, three-time WNBA champ Candace Parker, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, and actor Jennifer Lawrence, to name a few.

  • Whether your picks are based on team records, star players, mascots, uniforms, colors, or just vibes, why not join in on the fun?
Together With The GIST

🎙️ Sound off

The GIST of It podcast
Source: The GIST

Looking for a new podcast? Then you have to check out our twice-weekly podcast, The GIST of It. Hosted by BFFs Ellen Hyslop and Stephanie Rotz, it’s the women-produced and -hosted sports podcast you’ve been waiting for.

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Join the conversation (and these happy listeners!) by subscribing to The GIST of It wherever you tune into podcasts.

🏀 A mad legacy

Legendary UCLA men’s basketball head coach John Wooden gives his team a pep talk in a huddle during the 1973 NCAA championship game, in which his Bruins defeated Memphis State 87–66 for their ninth program title.
Source: Getty Images

With 85 years of history and fanfare, there are, of course, noteworthy March Madness records and iconic moments that are well worth revisiting.

🏆 Winning dynasties: UConn holds the record for the most women’s national titles with 11, and HC Geno Auriemma — who’ll be making his 35th (!!!) consecutive appearance — has been at the helm for all of them.

  • Auriemma’s 2014 Huskies — featuring future WNBA star Breanna Stewart — had a perfect 40-0 season to win their ninth ’ship, and in 2016 they achieved perfection again en route to the program’s fourth straight title.
  • As for the fellas, UCLA dominated in the ’60s and early ’70s under legendary HC John Wooden. The Bruins won seven national titles in a row, and a total of 11 — the most in men’s March Madness history.

💎 Cinderella stories: Everyone loves an underdog. And in 2022, the Saint Peter’s University men became the first No. 15 seed to ever make the Elite Eight. Their run stole hearts and social media attenton.

  • Donning glass slippers for the gals? Gonzaga’s 2011 Bulldogs, who rode a 21-game win streak as a No. 11 seed to the Elite Eight — the only non–No. 1 or 2 team to do so.

😢 Biggest upsets: Last year, No. 16–seed Fairleigh Dickinson University did what only one other team in NCAA men’s hoops history has done: open the tournament by upsetting a No. 1 seed. The Knights stunned No. 1 Purdue 63–58 to ink their name next to 2018’s University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) squad, who knocked off No. 1 Virginia.

  • The women, though, did it first: In 1998, Harvard became the first (and still only!) No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed with their 71–67 victory over Stanford. Underdog who?

😅 Clutch moments: As for buzzer-beating thrillers, the Villanova men put on a show in 2016 when Kris Jenkins hit a game-winning three-pointer to push the Wildcats past UNC 77—74 and take home the national title. Then in the 2021 semis, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs sunk a deep three at the buzzer to defeat UCLA 93–90 in overtime. An instant classic.

  • But the queen of Madness game-winners is now–WNBAer Arike Ogunbowale (pronounced ah-REE-kay oh-GOON-bow-WAH-lay), who sank two in the 2018 Final Four to give Notre Dame their first NCAA title in 17 years. Mamba mentality.

📺 Tune in

The NCAA March Madness logo shines on center court.
Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Madness will tip off on March 19th and crisscross the country until the women’s tournament culminates in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 7th, and the men’s tourney wraps up in Glendale, Arizona, on April 8th.

All eyes will be on tonight’s Selection Shows. As mentioned, the fellas’ bracket will drop on CBS at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the women’s on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.

  • And once the field is set, you only have a few days to fill out your (free!) men’s and women’s brackets, which are due at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, respectively. It’s time to lace up those dancing shoes!
The GIST's Picks

Hi. It’s us. We’re the recommenders, it’s us.

🎧 What to listen to

This throwback episode of The GIST of It featuring TCU women’s basketball star Sedona Prince. While hooping for Oregon at the 2021 tournament, Prince exposed gross inequalities between the men’s and women’s editions, sparking big changes in the NCAA tourneys.

🎤 What to sing along to

The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon’s 2023 March Madness busted bracket song. Good luck to your 2024 picks.

📚 What to read

Dear Black Girls, the bestselling book reminding women of their worth by 2017 NCAA champ and two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson.

Fun and Games

Question of the Day

With all this madness upon us, are you going to fill out a tournament bracket this year?

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