When the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off on Thursday, it begins a wild three weeks filled with buzzer beaters, Cinderella stories, heroes and unforgettable games, all culminating in Indianapolis at the Final Four.

The beauty of the tournament is that it has opened up the best time of year not only to basketball aficionados but also to amateur hoop fans, all joined at the bracket in enjoying the madness.

So as you settle in with an ice-cold Coca-Cola or Coke Zero to watch the excitement unfold, here are seven tidbits to keep in mind.

1. The tournament started small

The first NCAA tournament was held in 1939, featured only eight teams and held its championship game at a tiny gym in Evanston, Ill. Since then, the popularity and size of the Big Dance has mushroomed, growing from 16 teams in 1951 to 32 squads in 1975 to 64 competitors in 1985. The latest expansion occurred in 2011, when four more teams were added to the field.

2. The home of the tournament is… Dayton?

While NCAA tournament games are spread out at venues across the country, with cities bidding to host games years in advance, the city that has become the unofficial home of the tournament is Dayton, Ohio, which has hosted a record 105 games, including the First Four contests held every year. Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium has played host to eight Final Fours, but the venerable building hasn't hosted a game since 1964.

3. You should pick favorites, but not all of them

Building a bracket? Well, the smart strategy is to include a few of the top seeds in your Final Four. Since the NCAA began assigning seeds in 1979, only three times (1980, 2006 and 2011) did a No. 1 seed not make the Final Four. On the other hand, there's only been one year (2008) when all four top seeds advanced to create a true No. 1 showdown.

4. Never say never, except with No. 16

The NCAA tournament has become famous for Davids knocking off Goliaths, but there's one upset that hasn't ever taken place – a 16 seed has never been able to topple a 1 seed. In fact, No. 16 seeds are 0-120 all-time against No. 1, and only 15 times in tournament history have they even gotten as close as single digits. Twice, both in 1989, a 16-seeded team came within one point of pulling off one of sport's biggest upsets.

5. Fans like to eat their sorrows away

Nothing's worse than seeing your team's NCAA tournament dreams come crashing to an end, and according to the researchers at WalletHub, people like to turn to comfort food when their team loses. There is a 19 percent increase in pizza orders and a 9 percent increase in dessert orders by fans after losses vs. wins, suggesting that if you can't beat 'em, you might as well eat 'em.

6. Find your upsets at 5 and 6

Expert bracketologists know that the best chance for an upset usually occurs in the 5-12 game, and the numbers bear this out, with 44 No. 12 seeds prevailing in the first round over their higher-ranked opponents. But another, equally as prominent, upset generally happens between 6 and 11 seeds, with the lower-ranked team pulling out the win 41 times. In fact, a 6-11 upset has happened every year since 2005, while a 5-12 shocker only has occurred each year since 2008, although three No. 5 seeds won in last year's tournament.

7. Thank goodness for TV

For many years, the NCAA tournament played second fiddle to the NIT, and tournament games were not even televised until 1969, although many early-round games were not shown. In the ensuing years, as the popularity of the tournament grew, more games were broadcast, but it wasn't until 2011 when all of the games were made available on TV via CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV, resulting in an advertising boom that equals $1.15 billion of revenue, and happy fans gorging on a hoops smorgasbord.