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Patient Zero for March Madness is Badger Harold Olsen 1918. If not for him, we wouldn’t be getting our hopes up for a successful run in this year’s NCAA tournament because, if not for him, there would be no NCAA basketball tournament. Olsen was an All-American player for the Badgers as an undergrad, and in 1922, he became head coach for Ohio State, where he led the Buckeyes for 24 years. In 1937, he was named chair of the NCAA’s Basketball Committee, and two years later, he launched the NCAA championship tournament. Until 1950, only eight teams played in the tourney. The “Final Four” wasn’t such an honor then, and a perfectly filled out bracket wasn’t as unlikely. (By the way, if you’re a betting Badger, check out this quick history of sports gambling and March Madness brackets from communication arts professor Jason Kido Lopez.) In 2024, Wisconsin is one of 68 teams vying for the top spot — a feat that the Badgers have only managed once, in 1941. Tonight’s first-round game will be a Madisonian matchup: number five Wisconsin plays number 12 James Madison.

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