The now-iconic phrase March Madness traces to 1939 and one Henry V. Porter, assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association, who, prior to the state basketball tournament, said in the group’s magazine: “A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.”

(Back in ‘39 the Great Depression was ebbing and World War II was about to begin, so Mr. Porter wasn’t lying that societal sanity may have been a just concern. I might argue we can use that even keel and the diversion that March Madness brings every bit as much in 2024.)

Fortuitously, Dick Vitale would be born that very year of 1939, and continues to this day as the optimistic soul of college basketball, smiling through cancer battles and predicting Kentucky will be this year’s men’s champion. He’s awesome, baby!

Getting back to the NCAA Tournament’s two-word description, “Madness” certainly fits the definition of “frenzied or chaotic activity” inherent in men’s and women’s mosh pits of 68 teams each of varying levels bracketed in a relentless must-win format.

It also accurately defines millions of brackets hopelessly taking shape as office pools fill. There is nothing else quite like it in sports. College football is expanding its playoff in hopes of getting some of what hoops has. It won’t work.

“Madness” fits on a second level, too:

Selection Sunday always makes lots of people mad. Before the games, upsets, busted brackets and rapture take over and consume America, there is anger. Let’s start there with our quick thoughts on March Madness ‘24...

— The members of the selection committee that divvied up teams on the women’s bracket were either drunk or fit yet another definition of Madness: “Extreme or foolish behavior.”

The Albany 2 Regional includes reigning women’s champ LSU, No. 1 seed Iowa with Caitlin Clark and UCLA not to mention Kansas State. The crazy-tough grouping disrespects Iowa to give it a particularly difficult path to the top — or even out of the Elite Eight. It also denies the chance of a rematch of the LSU-Iowa national championship game that last spring set a record with just a shade under 10 million viewers.

— The University of Miami is this season’s Big Loser after the Canes made school history last year with the men’s team reaching the Final Four and the women the Elite Eight, each for the first time.

Jim Larranaga’s Miami men started 11-2 but finished 15-17 and on a miserable 10-game losing streak that gave an unwanted connotation to the nickname “Coach L.” From Final Four to an embarrassing, precipitous fall. (FAU and San Diego State — other upstarts in the Final Four last year — both repeated with strong seasons and are back in the bracket.)

The UM women by contrast had a decent encore season, finished 19-12, were projected around a 10th seed by ESPN’s Bracketology — but were stunningly uninvited altogether Sunday night. It was a slap at coach Katie Meier. No, this wasn’t a great team. They were 8-10 in the ACC, 2-7 against ranked opponents. But they beat then-No. 4 NC State and had the overall record to merit selection, but accrued zero respect from last season.

— No. 1 seed UConn (31-3) has a big chance to become the first back-to-back men’s champion since the Florida Gators of Joakim Noah in 2006-07. Don’t much care. Not that excited about Houston or Purdue or North Carolina, either.

I believe I have come around to prefer women’s college hoops, hence my earlier gripe.

Can we just fast-forward to Caitlin’s Iowa vs. Dawn Staley’s South Carolina juggernaut in the women’s championship?

— They should have found a way to let the Loyola Ramblers onto the men’s bracket so Sister Jean, now 104, wold have another courtside go at March Madness. Loyola was good again; could-a been picked.

Leave out Grand Canyon, Samford or Colgate and nobody outside of those campuses would give a hoot.

Another benefit of Sister Jean having a role in March Madness: No more court-storming because nobody wants to storm past a 104-year-old nun in a wheelchair.

— Duke and Oregon are among the men’s tournament field. Two other teams (James Madison and Duquesne) are nicknamed Dukes. So it was theoretically possible for this year’s Final Four to be Duke, Ducks, Dukes and Dukes.

The men’s side also includes teams nicknamed Peacocks (St. Peter’s), Lopes (Grand Canyon) and Jackrabbits (South Dakota State). Women’s teams include Spiders (Richmond), Anteaters (UC-Irvine) and Blue Hose (Presbyterian).

Our favorite player names in this NCAA tourney: Boo Bouie (Northwestern), Rocket Watts (Oakland) and Tony Toney (UAB). And we’ll see you courtside, Clemson assistant coach Dick Bender.

Team we hoped would get in: Hutchinson Community College, led by a player name Amillion Buggs.

—Teams that don’t get into the 68-team men’s or women’s fields still have a chance to say they played in the postseason, with lesser invitationals including the NIT, the CBI and now the new WBIT.

Here’s one more: the NCAT, the Nobody Cares About Those.

Overlooked or just plain mediocre teams not in the NCAA Tournament, please stay home, and save yourself the embarrassment of voluntary relegation. Your fans don’t Neither do your players or coaches.

There is one last definition of “Madness,” the one having to do with mental instability. The definition is “throwing a parade to celebrate an NIT championship.”

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