Cue the theme music on CBS. Find out where truTV is on your TV. And get ready for the Madness. Before the full schedule of games tip off, let’s count the ways — 68 in total — about why we love this month.
1. The instant classics. Like Illinois rallies to shock Arizona. Of course, this is first on all Illini fans’ lists. Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head and friends came back from 15 down in the final four minutes against Arizona at Allstate Arena in the 2005 regional final.
2. Austin Peay upset. You’ve got to take the bad with the good. In 1987 in Birmingham, Ala., Tony Raye made two free throws in the final seconds to beat Lou Henson’s team. Upsets happen.
3. Bracketology. It starts when the college football season is still going strong. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is the best, but he has many rivals. Check out The Bracket Project to see a long list of guesses.
4. Revolving sites. Eight new cities every year. Unlike bowl games, which stay in the same place. Next year’s first- and second-round games will be played in Brooklyn, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C., Indianapolis, Memphis, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Spokane, Wash. Tickets go on sale in October.
5. Dick Vitale. Great to have him back on air. Wish he was calling tournament games. Don’t forget: He stood on his head after Illinois lost in 1987 to Austin Peay.
6. Selection Sunday. For the rest of the planet, the World Cup draw is a big deal. In the U.S., basketball fans tune to CBS at 5 p.m. the second Sunday of March. With brackets in hand.
7. Dive into the pool. Throw in $5, fill out a bracket with the winners and compete with your friends or online. Many don’t cost you a dime.
8. John Wooden’s rolled-up program. No coach has won more titles (10) than the UCLA legend.
9. Tark’s towel. Jerry Tarkanian used to chew on it during games. He won the 1990 national title at UNLV with one of the best teams in the sport. The Rebels beat Duke in the final by 30.
10. John Thompson’s towel. He draped it over his shoulder, looking like a boxing trainer during a fight. Coaching the bruising Georgetown Hoyas, that often was the case.
11. Jim Valvano’s mad dash. After leading North Carolina State to an improbable title in 1983, the late coach went looking for someone to hug.
12. Lorenzo Charles’ dunk. Valvano wouldn’t have gone crazy if Charles hadn’t grabbed Dereck Whittenburg’s miss against Houston and stuffed it home.
13. Coach K. Just-retired Mike Krzyzewski became the closest thing to Wooden while at Duke.
14. Rooting against Duke. Very few outside Durham want to see the Blue Devils win.
15. Grant Hill’s pass. Sticking with the Duke theme, his throw to Christian Laettner against Kentucky in 1992 was perfect.
16. Laetttner’s shot. Love him or hate him, you have to admit the Duke star was clutch with his game-winner.
17. Al McGuire, Billy Packer and Dick Enberg. For a stretch, we were blessed with the greatest announcing trio in the history of sports. Fun (McGuire), knowledgeable (Packer) and enthusiastic (Oh, my, Enberg).
18. Getting to know truTV, TBS and TNT. The three networks share March Madness coverage with CBS. Every year, we have to figure out where truTV is on the dial.
19. Michael Jordan’s game-winner. We all should have realized we were watching the GOAT when he beat Georgetown in the 1982 title game. A legend was born.
20. Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. The 1979 title game between Michigan State and Indiana State was the most watched in history. It also set up a long NBA rivalry between the all-time greats.
21. Smart move. Indiana put the ball in Keith Smart’s hands in the final seconds of the 1987 title game, and he nailed the shot. Hard to believe, but that was Indiana’s last title.
22. Tyus Edney’s mad dash. The UCLA guard went coast to coast in the final five seconds of a 1995 second-round game against Missouri for the winning layup. The Bruins went on to take the title.
23. Bryce Drew: Hero. The Valparaiso star and current Grand Canyon coach beat Mississippi in the final seconds of the 1998 tournament on a play called “Pacer.” Two passes and a perfect three-pointer.
24. The Drive. In a 1981 regional semifinal, BYU’s Danny Ainge gave us an Edney preview with a length-of-the-court run to beat Notre Dame.
25. Drive my Carr. Who scored the most points in an NCAA tournament game: Jordan? Stephen Curry? Bird? Nope, it was Notre Dame’s Austin Carr, who put up 61 in a 1970 game against Ohio. He scored 52 the next game against Kentucky.
26. Dominant big man. The late, great Bill Russell had 26 points and 27 rebounds as San Francisco beat Iowa for the 1956 title. The game was played at McGaw Hall in Evanston and was the Dons second title in a row.
27. Dominant big man II. In the 1973 title game against Memphis, UCLA’s Bill Walton hit 21 of 22 shots for 44 points. He added 13 rebounds in the romp in St. Louis.
28. The streak ends. After seven consecutive titles, UCLA finally lost in 1974 with David Thompson, Tom Burleson and Monte Towe leading North Carolina State to a semifinal win against the Bruins. The Wolfpack beat Marquette in the final.
29. The perfect season. You have to go back to 1976 to find the last undefeated NCAA champion. Bob Knight and Indiana ran the table, beating Johnny Orr and Michigan in the all-Big Ten final.
30. Upset special. There have been oodles of them over the years. But none was bigger than No. 16 seed UMBC stunning Virginia in the first round of the 2018 tournament. It was a rout, with the Retrievers winning by 20. Yikes.
31. Kris Jenkins for the winner. In the 2016 title game, just after North Carolina had tied the score, Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Villanova its first title in 31 years.
32. The Wright stuff. Now entertaining us as an announcer, Jay Wright won two titles during a stellar run at Villanova. Honestly, don’t you think he should still be coaching?
33. Rollie good time. Staying with the Villanova moments. Rollie Massimino led the Wildcats to one of the least probable NCAA titles in history. His 1985 team was a heavy underdog in the final against Big East rival Georgetown. But Nova hit 22 of 28 shots from the floor (79 percent) in a 66-64 win.
34. Going out a winner. How cool was it that Wooden won the last game he ever coached? In the 1975 final against Kentucky, UCLA took a 92-85 victory. UCLA beat Louisville in overtime in the semifinal.
35. Multiple screens. If you are so inclined, you can watch several games at once. Thankfully, the NCAA and TV partners have staggered the games so there aren’t too many on at once.
36. Early morning bar stops. With games tipping at 11 most days, hopefully your favorite watering hole is serving breakfast.
37. Bill Raftery. The priceless CBS announcer has his signature terms “with a little kiss,” “Onions” and “send it in big fella.”
38. Charles Barkley. You never know what the “Round Mound of Rebound” is going to say. But it will be interesting.
39. Pep bands. They get the best seats. And they should.
40. Mascots. Not counting that flea-bitten Nittany Lion that desperately needs a makeover. The best in this year’s field: Purdue Pete and Sparky the Sun Devil.
41. Texas Western. The 1966 NCAA champions coached by Don Haskins stunned Adolph Rupp and Kentucky. They made it into an excellent movie called “Glory Road.”
42. Cinderella. Who will it be this year? Guaranteed some 10-plus seed will make a run to the Sweet 16. Or maybe two teams.
43. Giant crowds. Yes, the title games played in normal-sized arenas have a better feel. But playing the Final Four in domes allows access to so many more fans. You should all go once.
44. Human beings play the game. So, we don’t make fun of Michigan’s Chris Webber and Georgetown’s Fred Brown, who either called a timeout their team didn’t have or threw it to the wrong team in the closing seconds.
45. Bo Kimble’s free throws. To honor fallen teammate Hank Gathers, righty Kimble shot his first attempt in each game left-handed in the 1990 tournament. Loyola Marymount went all the way to the regional final.
46. Who are the Peacocks? That would be Saint Peters, which upset Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue on its way to the 2022 regional final.
47. Rumeal Robinson’s free throws. Gave Michigan the 1989 title. No reason to mention who the Wolverines edged in the semifinal.
48. Coaching change that worked. Right before the start of the 1989 tournament, Michigan’s Bill Frieder took a job at Arizona State. Athletic director Bo Schembechler acted quickly, installing assistant Steve Fisher as the new coach. All the Illinois State alum did was win the school’s first national title.
49. Capital One commercials. Samuel L. Jackson, Barkley, Jennifer Garner and Willie Nelson are in the latest spot you will see a lot in the next three weeks.
50. Lehigh over Duke. In the 2012 tournament, C.J. McCollum scored 30 points to lead the Mountain Hawks past the Blue Devils in a first-round game, A rare No. 15 upset of a No. 2 seed.
51. Except, it happened again in the same tournament, with Norfolk State stunning Missouri.
52. Bracket near-certainties. A No. 7 seed will beat a No. 10 seed. So, Missouri, Michigan State, Northwestern and Texas A&M have been warned.
53. Conference call. Which is the best league this season? Well, we will have a better idea after all the games are played, but right now, the SEC and Big 12 appear to be at the top.
54. Glen Rice. In 1989, the Michigan sharp-shooter set the tournament record with 184 points in six games.
55. Danny and the Miracles. No. 4 on the scoring list is Kansas star Danny Manning, who led the Jayhawks to an improbable title in 1988.
56. Dimes by the dozens. The all-time assist leader for one tournament is UNLV’s Mark Wade, who had 61 assists in 1987. Illinois’ Deron Williams is fourth on the list with 50 in 2005.
57. Chairman of the Boards. That would be LaSalle’s Tom Gola, who averaged 20 rebounds in five games during the 1954 tournament.
58. Hard to repeat. Kansas might win a second consecutive national title. But history is against it. The last team to cut down the nets in back to back years was Florida in 2006 and 2007.
59. The Admiral. In the last 50 years, one player has scored 50 points in the NCAA tournament: the Navy’s David Robinson did it in 1987 against Michigan in Charlotte, N.C.
60. Souvenir basketballs. You can buy them, both mini and full-size versions, at all tournament sites. A keepsake you you use on the driveway court.
61. Buzzer-beaters. In the second round of the 1981 tournament, Arkansas’ U.S. Reed’s shot beyond midcourt beat defending champion Louisville.
62. Glad they added the three-pointer. So was Loyola Marymount’s Jeff Fryer, who holds the record with 11 in a game in 1990.
63. Shaq Attack. In a 1992 game against BYU, LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal blocked a record 11 shots. He also scored 26 points and had 13 rebounds in the Tigers’ 94-83 win.
64. Triple-doubles. O’Neal is one of only nine in the past 40 years to produce these. The last to do it was Murray State’s Ja Morant, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists in a 2019 game against Marquette.
65. Draymond Green. In the past four decades, the former Michigan State star is the only player with two NCAA tournament triple-doubles, coming in 2011 and 2012.
66. The Butler almost did it. In the 2010 title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer barely missed, allowing Duke to escape with a two-point win against Butler.
67. Jim Nantz. The friendly former Houston golfer is calling his final Final Four this season. The Voice of the Masters is stepping away from his basketball duties after 32 years. For many of us, he is the narrator of March Madness.
68. “One Shining Moment.” Written and originally recorded by David Barrett, the song traditionally closes out the tournament broadcast on CBS/TBS. Later versions were recorded by Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross.