That's why the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament is so much fun: 64 teams (fine, 68, but purists like the original model) half of which are gone by the end of the second day, and down to 16 by the weekend, all compete from around the country from conferences you've never heard of. Sometimes you've never heard of the school either. You might have thought that Northwestern State was either in Chicago or the Pacific Northwest of the United States, not the northwestern corner of Louisiana, in a town called Nachitoches.
Where exactly are teams like Gonzaga, Butler, Marquette, Davidson, and Creighton and how do they fit into the national distribution of teams in the tournament? Are the teams more evenly distributed throughout the country?
Take a look:
Certainly the NCAA has their concentrations of basketball schools: Tobacco Road in North Carolina (Duke, UNC, NC State all in the tournament, with Davidson just down the road). Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky are usually well represented (minus the bluegrass state this year).
But for the most part the geographic diversity of the tournament is impressive. Most regions are represented, with 32 states and the District of Columbia sending teams to the big dance. North Carolina and Pennsylvania have the most schools (5), but Indiana and California are right behind (4). New York, Florida, Ohio, Kansas are right up there too (3).
A few states with previous glories aren't represented this year: West Virginia, Arkansas, and Connecticut to name a few. The Mountain West, New England, and significant portions of the South came up short this year.
At the end of the day though this is a reasonably well-rounded tournament, with a diverse group of teams from around the country competing for the championship. It's no wonder it's one of the most profitable athletic entities in the world, with CBS paying $11 billion for the rights. It's a dynamic entertainment product that draws loyalties (and television eyeballs) from around the country.
Update: This post now includes the 64 teams scheduled to play on March 21-22