March is upon us and the hype around March Madness has once again got everyone talking. But you ask yourself what exactly is March Madness all about? It’s quite simply one of the biggest, most exciting and fun events in all of sports, especially when it comes to the college game. Below we will outline everything that you need to know about the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, which has been played since 1939.
The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is a single-elimination tournament consisting of 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the National Championship. The penultimate round is known as the Final Four, when only four teams are left.
The very first NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament took place in 1939 and has been held every year until the 2019-20 season. The event was cancelled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The inaugural tournament included only eight teams, and saw Oregon beat Ohio State 46-33 for the championship. In 1951, the competitors doubled to 16, and kept expanding over the next few decades until 1985, when the modern format of a 64-team tournament started. In 2001, after the Mountain West Conference joined Division I and received an automatic bid, pushing the total teams to 65, a single game was added prior to the first round. In 2011, three more teams were added, and with them, three more games to round out the First Four.
What is Selection Sunday and when does it take place?
Selection Sunday is the day when the Selection Committee reveals the full NCAA tournament bracket, including all teams and all seeds. In 2021, Selection Sunday is on March 14.
How are the teams selected?
There are two ways that a college team can earn a bid to be part of the NCAA tournament. The 32 Division I conference teams all receive an automatic bid, which they each award to the team that wins the postseason conference tournament. Regardless of how a team performed during the regular season, if they are eligible for postseason play and win their conference tournament, they receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. These teams are known as automatic qualifiers. There are 31 of these in the 2021 season because the Ivy League did not conduct a winter season.
The second route for an invitation is an at-large bid. The selection committee convenes on Selection Sunday, after all regular season and conference tournament games are played, and decides which 36 teams that are not automatic qualifiers, but have the quality to earn an invitation to the tournament. There are 37 of these in 2021.
What are seeds?
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is made up of 68 teams. On Selection Sunday, before any tournament game is played, those teams are ranked 1 through 68 by the Selection Committee, with the best team in college basketball, based on regular season and conference tournament performance sitting at No. 1. Four of those teams are eliminated in the opening round of the tournament (Which is known as the First Four), leaving us with a field of 64 for the first round.
Those 64 teams are split into four regions of 16 teams each, with each team being ranked 1 through 16. The ranking will determine the team’s seeding.
In order to reward better teams, first-round matchups are determined by placing the top team in the region against the bottom team (No. 1 vs. No. 16). Then the next highest vs. the next lowest (No. 2 vs. No. 15), and so on. In theory, this means that the number 1 seed has the easiest opening matchup in the bracket.
Who has won the most NCAA tournaments?
Since the tournament began, 36 different teams have won a championship title, but no team has won more than UCLA, which has 11 titles, 10 of which came a span of 12 years from 1964 to 1975.
How will March Madness be different in 2021 because of the pandemic?
For the first time ever, the NCAA will host the entire tournament in one geographic location. The NCAA announced in early January the entire 2021 men’s basketball championship will be played in Indiana, with the majority of the tournament’s 67 games taking place in Indianapolis. Selection Sunday is still scheduled for March 14, and plans remain to have the Final Four on April 3 and 5.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
There will also be slight changes to the bracket. The top four seeds will be handled the same and so will the First Four. The changes will come in how the rest of the bracket is completed. Teams will be placed in the bracket based on rankings without the usual considerations for geography. This is called using the “S-curve” to fill the bracket. There will be 37 at-large selections (one more than normal) and 31 automatic qualifiers (one fewer than normal).Take the next step and follow your March Madness Dream! How can we help? Sign up with BRUSA Sports today, for a free evaluation, and we would love to assist with your USA scholarship process.