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Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Last updated: 10:08pm

March Madness for dummies



Arizona men’s basketball has its best team in years, so it has acquired lots of new fans.
It’s OK if you need a primer on March Madness, just make sure to study this rather than your midterms material.

What is the Pac-12 Tournament? What is the Pac-12 Championship? Didn’t Arizona already win that? Yes, last week actually. This week the Wildcats are going for the Pac-12 tournament championship. Winning that punches their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Of course, they’re already in the NCAA tournament as a very high seed.

So what’s the point of the conference tournaments?
Don’t complain, it’s basketball during the day on weekdays.

What’s the bubble?
It is the precarious position that teams on the borderline of making the NCAA tournament are in.

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File Photo Center Kaleb Tarczewski shoots during Arizona's 74-51 win over Harvard in March 2013 in the NCAA tournament in Salt lake City.

What’s bracketology?
It is the study of brackets, as in NCAA tournament brackets. Bracketologists like me don’t study the Pac-12 tournament brackets (it’s based on standings). The NCAA tournament is selected by a committee. Bracketology is basically science for jocks, sans the lab coats.

What’s a mid-major?
It’s a team that’s not from one of the big, powerful conferences. Think of a directional school (like Northern Arizona University) or a “state” school not named after a state (like Appalachian State).
Mid-majors are not supposed to beat big schools — after all, who would go to Eastern Michigan over Michigan? But every year they do. Last year Wichita State made the Final Four.

What’s a Cinderella?
Cinderella is a fairy tale about a girl who started from the bottom and now she’s here. Cinderellas are underdogs who achieve more than they are supposed to.

What’s a bracket buster?
A Cinderella. When a team upsets one or more favored team(s) and screws up people’s bracket projections.

What’s the Big Dance?
It’s the NCAA tournament.

How many teams are in the Big Ten?
12.

How many teams are in the Big 12?
10.

How many teams are in the Final Four? 16?
No, it’s four.

How about the Elite 8 and the Sweet 16?
That would be eight and 16.

OK, smart guy, there must be four teams in the First Four right?
Nope, it’s eight. It’s the first four games, not first four teams.

When does the first round of the NCAA tournament start?
It starts with the First Four next Tuesday. The NCAA calls it the first round, but everyone else calls them play-in games. The second round is when the vast majority of teams start playing.

How could a team play their games in San Antonio and be in the East Region?
In the old days the tournament was based on regions. Eventually that evolved into 64 teams playing in four regions. In those days, teams would play their first and second round games in a city in the region the bracket is in. Like in 1997, Arizona was in the Southeast Region, whose Regional was in Birmingham, Ala., and it played in Memphis Tenn., in the first/second rounds. In 2002, the NCAA changed the first weekend of tournaments to the “pod system,” where pods of the higher-seeded teams are placed in tourney locations near those teams, like Arizona going to San Diego, even if they play in the Midwest Region.

What’s the NIT?
National Invitational Tournament, the other tournament, though generally it’s known as the “Not Invited Tournament” — as in, not invited to the Big Dance. The UA won the NIT this year but will surely be invited to the NCAA tournament. How? The Wildcats won the NIT Season Tip-Off. In the old days the NIT and NCAA tournament used to be competitors, now the NCAA owns the NIT.

Will you help me fill out my brackets?
Nah. The people who watch games all season long always lose the pools to people picking the winners based on the mascots, you don’t need any help.

—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520


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