It’s March now, which for many Americans means the start of the March Madness college basketball tournament. Each year, from the middle of March to early April, the top 68 university basketball teams in America take part in a huge tournament. Here is the tournament for this year (click to englarge):
The first round is always played on a Thursday and Friday (16 games each day), so many college basketball fans take days off of work to watch the games (although many more just watch at work on their computers.) It is common for co-workers or friends to print the above picture out and try to predict which team will win, and then compete against each other to win money. When I worked for a candy company in America there was a March Madness competition that was open to all employees, and about 100 people joined, each paying $10 to enter. The winner won about $700, while second place got about $300. There are also competitions on websites where people can win $10,000 or more for having the most correct games picked.
March Madness is somewhat similar to the Japanese Koshien high school baseball tournament, except that it features college players instead of high schoolers, and while Koshien takes 15 days and is all played in Kobe, March Madness is played over three and a half weeks, at six different stadiums.
This tournament is a chance for the top players in the country to show NBA teams that they are ready to play professional basketball. Basketball players are not allowed to join the NBA until at least one year after they finish high school, so the best players in the country usually play in college for one year before going pro.
Here is the current bracket, as of today (click to enlarge):