The first NCAA Tournament was held in 1939. Most
fans wouldn't recognize that first tournament; it consisted of an eight-team
field, and the final drew 5,500 fans to Patten Gym in Evanston, IL.
There wasn't even a "final four;" Evanston hosted the championship game, but
the semifinals were held at separate sites a week earlier.
Today, the tournament has grown into "March Madness" and
is a huge nationwide event. The tournament has 65 teams and draws over
700,000 fans, and the Final Four is held in domed stadiums seating well over
The tournament now determines the national champion, but
that wasn't always the case. Until the 1950's, the NIT was just as big
a tournament as the NCAA, and teams often chose to enter the NIT and bypass
the NCAA tourney. For this reason, two of the best big men in of the
1940's never met in an NCAA tourney. George Mikan's DePaul team
traditionally entered the NIT, while Bob Kurland's Oklahoma A&M (now
Oklahoma State) won two NCAA titles.
Several schools entered both tournaments, with one team,
CCNY in 1950, winning both. Ironically, CCNY defeated Bradley in the
finals of both tournaments. Another school, Utah in 1944, entered the
NIT and lost in the first round, then went on to win the NCAA title!
Kentucky pulled off a similar feat in 149, losing in the second round of the
NIT before winning the NCAA.
Until 1975, only one school from each conference could
participate in the tournament. This restriction prevented several
great teams from participating in the tournament, including the 1974
Maryland team. After Maryland finished the season ranked #4, yet lost
the ACC final to top-ranked NC State, the NCAA began to allow more than one
team per conference.
Significant events in NCAA tournament history:
1939 - The first tournament is held. Eight teams
compete in two regions, with Oregon defeating Ohio State in the
championship. The West region holds a third-place game.
1941 - The East region adds a third-place game.
1946 - A national third-place game is held for the first
time; the game would be a fixture until 1980.
1950 - CCNY, led by Irwin Dambrot, wins both the NIT and
1951 - The tournament expands to 16 teams.
1952 - Seattle hosts the first true "Final Four," with
all four semifinalists meeting in one city.
1956 - The tournament is divided into four regions.
1957 - North Carolina defeats Wilt Chamberlain and
Kansas 54-53 in three overtimes to win the title.
1962 - John Wooden's UCLA team makes the first of 13
Final Four appearances over the next 15 seasons.
1966 - Texas Western (now UTEP), with an all-black
starting five, defeats all-white Kentucky to win the national title.
1973 - With the championship game held on Monday night
for the first time, UCLA wins its seventh straight championship, defeating
Memphis State behind Bill Walton's 44 points on 21 of 22 shooting.
1974 - NC State, led by David Thompson, ends UCLA's
title run, defeating the Bruins in the national semifinals in double
1975 - The tournament expands to 32 teams, and allows
more than one school from each conference to participate.
1976 - Bob Knight's Indiana squad completes an
undefeated season with a victory over Michigan in the championship game.
The Hoosiers are the last team to go undefeated and win the title.
1979 - The tournament expands to 40 teams, and teams are
seeded for the first time. Earvin Johnson leads Michigan State over
Larry Bird and Indiana State to win the national championship. The
matchup drew the attention of millions throughout the country; it's 24.1 TV
rating remains the highest ever for a college basketball game.
1980 - The tournament expands to 48 teams.
1983 - The tournament expands to 53 teams. Upstart
NC State stuns powerhouse Houston and Akeem Olajuwon on a last-second dunk
by Lorenzo Charles to win the national championship.
1985 - The tournament expands to 64 teams.
Villanova shoots 22-28 to defeat Patrick Ewing and defending champion
Georgetown in the championship game. The Wildcats remain the lowest
seed (#8) to win the championship.
1986 - 11th-seeded LSU becomes the lowest seed to
reach the Final Four; the Tigers bow out to Louisville in the semifinals.
1991 - Duke upsets undefeated UNLV in the national
semifinals and goes on to win the national championship.
1997 - Arizona becomes the first school to defeat three
#1 seeds en route to the national championship.
2002 - The tournament goes to a "pod" system for the
first and second rounds. The system allows the top four seeds to play
at a site as close to home as possible, without regard to the school's
tournament region. Maryland becomes the first school to defeat five
former national champions and wins its first title.
2004 - Final Four matchups are
set by the committee prior to the tournament instead of on a rotating basis.
Connecticut, behind center Emeka Okafor, wins its second title in six
2006 - George Mason reaches the Final Four as an 11
seed, tying LSU in 1986 as the lowest seed to reach the semifinals;
the Patriots are defeated by eventual champion Florida.
2007 - Florida becomes
the first school since Duke in 1992 to repeat as national champion.
2008 - All four number one seeds reach the Final Four
for the first time; Kansas defeats Memphis 75-68 in overtime to win its
2012 - Kentucky wins its eighth title, second only to
UCLA's eleven titles
Source - NCAA