The fields are finally set for the two-plus weeks of college basketball commonly known as "March Madness," the season-ending National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournaments during which a selection of the country's top men's and women's teams compete to crown respective U.S. national champions.
The process of selecting the participating schools -- 65 in the men's field and 64 in the women's -- is not scientific or foolproof, but involves a variety of factors and procedures. Invariably there's disappointment and frustration when a seemingly deserving team doesn't make the cut; but those chosen remain in contention as long as they continue winning, until the final four in each tournament reach the climactic "Final Four" championship in early April. On April 5 in San Antonio, TX the top two men's teams, and on April 6 in New Orleans, LA the last two remaining in the women's field, meet to settle the matter.
The key to following the action, which begins late this week, is the bracket pairings that list the teams, matchups and locations for both tournaments. The NCAA and various sports media organizations commonly post copies, suitable for online viewing and/or printing. We've collected links [below] to a few sites that have posted PDF versions of the opening matchups. Some of these Web sites will post updated brackets as the tournament progresses, typically offering a final collector's edition when the championship-winning teams have been decided.
While the NCAA prohibits gambling on collegiate sporting events, the annual availability of the tournament brackets traditionally triggers assorted office pools -- technically illegal, but widely tolerated -- in which colleagues can make friendly wagers on the outcome. After all, the NCAA recognizes there's money to be made in marketing the popular tournament -- from television rights to merchandise such as t-shirts bearing the bracket pairings.
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