March Madness History Timeline

March Madness HIstoric Timeline

Check out the key moments in the history of the March Madness Tournament. From the origins of the name to describe a high school basketball tournament to its major expansions and broadcasts, the Big Dance has seen it all! 

So, Where does the Name "March Madness" Come From?

One of the most surprising things here is that the name "March Madness" actually was first used in 1939 to describe a high school basketball tournament.  In Illinois, the high school tournament had begun attracting a lot of attention, even though basketball was only growing into a nation-wide sport at the time. 

In fact, basketball was barely coming into its own. This is evidenced by the fact that the same year "March Madness" was first used to describe that high school tournament is the same year that we saw the country's first NCAA basketball nationwide tournament. 

The term was later used to describe the college basketball tournament in 1982 during a broadcast of the game. The name took on more and more popularity as time went by. 

When did the tournament expand?

Originally the college basketball tournament was only eight teams. The original elite eight, if you will. A bit more than a decade later, the tournament doubled in size, so that in 1952, sixteen teams were competing for the national championship. 

Another major expansion in 1972, when the tournament again double to 32 teams. We now moved beyond the sweet sixteen! 

Fast forward a few decades, and we now have 68 teams competing in the Big Dance every March. The last expansion was from 65 to 68 teams in 2011. 

The tournament continues to make history. For example, the largest upset in the tournament's history came just in 2018 when no. 16 UMBC beat no.1 Virginia in a stunning victory!