One of the most popular events on the US sporting calendar, the NCAA Basketball Championships, began on Tuesday.

68 university teams will compete for the national title.
68 university teams will compete for the national title. (TRT World and Agencies)

The "Big Dance" or "March Madness" is one of the most popular events on the US sports calendar. It got underway on Tuesday, and ends on April 3 when this year's champion of American college basketball will be crowned.

The basketball tournament for university students began in 1939, and with its twists and turns, has become one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting events in the US, second only to the NFL post-season.

The field in 2017 began with 68 teams, each vying for the national title. It's a winner-take-all format, with the field whittling down to the "Sweet 16", the "Elite 8", "Final 4", and then after three intense weeks of competition, a champion.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is the most storied team in the tournament's history, winning 11 titles. The University of Kentucky has eight, while the University of North Carolina, Duke and Indiana each have five.

The current champion is Villanova, who beat North Carolina 77-74 in the 2016 final with a last-second three pointer.

TRT World spoke to Ohio-based WDTN-TV Sports Director Jack Pohl for his take on this year's "March Madness."

Big money

The three-week long tournament is a ratings bonanza and money machine. It generates the second-highest overall revenue spent on TV ads in any US sporting postseason, second only to the NFL.

Since 2010, TV network CBS/Turner has spent more than $19 billion to get its hands on college basketball up until 2032.

Last season, more than 17 million Americans tuned in to watch the final.

Advertising rates are also astronomical. A 30 second advertisement will cost companies around $1.5 million.

TRT World's Craig Copetas discusses the money behind the tournament.

Source: TRT World