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NCAA men's basketball tournament" redirects here. For other division tournaments, see NCAA basketball tournament.
"March Madness" redirects here. For other uses, see March Madness (disambiguation).
"NCAA March Madness" redirects here. For its televised coverage, see NCAA March Madness (TV program).
NCAA Division I men's basketball tournamentCurrent season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament
March Madness logo.svg
Founded 1939; 84 years ago
The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, branded as NCAA March Madness and commonly called March Madness, is a single-elimination tournament played each spring in the United States, currently featuring 68 college basketball teams from the Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to determine the national champion. The tournament was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and was the idea of Ohio State coach Harold Olsen. Played mostly during March, it has become one of the most popular annual sporting events in the United States.
It has become extremely common in popular culture to predict the outcomes of each game, even among non-sports fans; it is estimated that tens of millions of Americans participate in a bracket pool contest every year. Mainstream media outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports host tournaments online where contestants can enter for free. Employers have also noticed a change in the behavior of employees during this time: they have seen an increase in the number of sick days used, extended lunch breaks and even the rescheduling of conference calls to allow for more tournament watching. Many handicappers and pundits also offer advice for winning their own bracket.
The tournament teams include champions from 32 Division I conferences (which receive automatic bids), and 36 teams which are awarded at-large berths. These "at-large" teams are chosen by an NCAA selection committee, then announced in a nationally televised event dubbed Selection Sunday. The 68 teams are divided into four regions and organized into a single-elimination "bracket", which pre-determines – when a team wins a game – which team it will face next. Each team is "seeded", or ranked, within its region from 1 to 16. After the First Four round, the remainder of the tournament begins the third Thursday of March, and is played over the course of three weekends, at pre-selected neutral sites across the United States. Teams, seeded by rank, proceed through a single-game elimination bracket beginning with the First Four round, a first round consisting of 64 teams playing in 32 games over the course of two days, the second round consisting of the 32 remaining teams playing in 16 games that weekend, the "Sweet Sixteen" and "Elite Eight" rounds the next week and weekend, respectively, and – for the last weekend of the tournament – the "Final Four" round. The two Final Four games are played the Saturday preceding the first Sunday in April, with the championship game on Monday. These four teams, one from each region (East, South, Midwest, and West), compete in a preselected location for the national championship.
The tournament has been at least partially televised on network television since 1969. Currently, the games are broadcast by CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV under the trade name NCAA March Madness. These networks paid the NCAA to broadcast the games in 2011. The contract was for 14 years and they paid $10.8 billion. However, in 2018 that contract was extended for another seven years making it valid through the year 2032. The average payment over the years comes out to be $891 million annually. Since 2011, all games are available for viewing nationwide and internationally. As television coverage has grown, so too has the tournament's popularity. Currently, millions of Americans fill out a bracket, attempting to correctly predict the outcome of 63 games of the tournament (not including the First Four games).
With 11 national titles, UCLA has the record for the most NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championships; John Wooden coached UCLA to 10 of its 11 titles. The University of Kentucky (UK) is second, with eight national titles. The University of North Carolina (UNC) is third, with six national titles, and Duke University and Indiana University are tied for fourth with five national titles. The University of Connecticut (UConn) and the University of Kansas (KU) are tied for sixth with four national titles. Villanova University is seventh with three national titles. The University of Cincinnati, the University of Florida, University of Louisville (who have a 3rd vacated title),[a] Michigan State University, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, and the University of San Francisco all have two national titles. 22 other teams have won a single national title. The tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 65 in 2001, and 68 in 2011.
Both 2020 men's and women's tournaments were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 tournament was subsequently played at various venues in Indiana, the first (and only) time that a tournament has been hosted in its entirety by one state.
A ticket from the 1988 tournament held in Kansas City, Missouri
The tournament consists of 68 teams competing in seven rounds of a single-elimination bracket. Thirty-two teams automatically qualify for the tournament by winning their conference tournament, played during the two weeks before the tournament, and thirty-six teams qualify by receiving an at-large bid based on their performance during the season. The Selection Committee determines the at-large bids, ranks all the teams 1 to 68, and places the teams in the bracket, all of which is revealed publicly on the Sunday before the tournament, dubbed Selection Sunday by the media and fans. There is no reseeding during the tournament and matchups in each subsequent round are predetermined by the bracket.
The tournament is divided into four regions, with each region having sixteen to eighteen teams. Regions are named after broad geographic regions of the United States, which vary from year to year.
The tournament is played over three weekends, with two rounds occurring each weekend. Before the first weekend, eight teams compete in the First Four to advance to the First Round. Two games pair the lowest-ranked conference champions and two games pair the lowest-ranked at-large qualifiers. The First and Second Rounds are played during the first weekend, the Regional Semifinals and Regional Finals during the second weekend, and the National Semifinals and Championship Game during the third weekend. Regional rounds are branded as the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight and the third weekend is branded as the Final Four, all named after the number of teams remaining at the beginning of the round. All games, including the First Four, are scheduled so that teams will have one rest day between each game. This format has been in use since 2011, with minor changes to the schedule in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summary of Tournament Rounds Round Teams
Competing Games Week Dates
First Four 68 8 4 1st Tuesday & Wednesday
First Round 64 64 32 Thursday & Friday
Second Round 32 32 16 Saturday & Sunday
Regional Semifinals—"Sweet Sixteen" 16 16 8 2nd Thursday & Friday
Regional Finals—"Elite Eight" 8 8 4 Saturday & Sunday
National Semifinals—"Final Four" 4 4 2 3rd Saturday
Championship Game 2 2 1 Monday
Seeding and Bracket
Further information: NCAA basketball tournament selection process
The Selection Committee, which includes conference commissioners and university athletic directors appointed by the NCAA, determines the bracket during the week before the tournament. Since the results of several conference tournaments occurring during the same week can significantly impact the bracket, the Committee often makes several brackets for different results.
To make the bracket, the Committee ranks the whole field from 1 to 68; these are referred to as the true seed. The committee then divides the teams amongst the four regions, giving each a seed between No. 1 and No. 16. The same four seeds in all the regions are referred to as the seed line (i.e. the No. 6 seed line). Eight teams are doubled up and compete in the First Four. Two of the paired teams compete for No. 16 seeds, and the other two paired teams are the last at-large teams awarded bids to the tournament and compete for a seed line in the No. 11 to No. 14 range, which varies year to year based on the true seeds of the teams overall.
Teams are placed in the closest geographical region to reduce travel time. However, teams are moved to other regions to follow several rules for ensuring competitive balance and avoiding rematches from the regular season in early rounds.
The top four overall seeds are placed as No. 1 seeds in each region. The regions are paired so that if all the No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four true seed No. 1 would play No. 4 and No. 2 would play No. 3. The No. 2 teams are preferably placed so that the No. 5 true seed will not be paired with the No. 1 true seed. The committee ensures competitive balance among the top four seeds in each region by adding the true seed values up and comparing the values among the regions. If there is significant deviation, some teams will be moved among the regions to balance the true seed distribution.
If a conference has two to four teams in the top four seeds, they will be placed in different regions. Otherwise, teams from the same conference are placed to avoid a rematch before the regional finals if they have played three or more times in the season, the regional semifinals if they have played twice, or the second round if they have played once. Additionally, the committee is advised to avoid rematches from the regular season and the previous years' tournament in the First Four. Finally, the committee will attempt to ensure that a team is not moved out of their preferred geographical region an inordinate number of times based on their placement in the previous two tournaments. To follow these rules and preferences, the committee may move a team off of their expected seed line. Thus, for example, the 40th overall ranked team, originally slated to be a No. 10 seed within a particular region, may instead be moved up to a No. 9 seed or moved down to a No. 11 seed.
Since 2012, the committee has released the No. 1 to 68 true seed list after announcing the bracket.
Since 2017, the Selection Committee has released a list of the top 16 teams three weeks before Selection Sunday. This list does not guarantee any team a bid, as the Committee re-ranks all teams when starting the final selection process.
First Four At-Large Seeding by Year
The University of Dayton Arena, which has hosted all First Four games since the round's inception in 2011 (except 2021), as well as its precursor, the single "play-in" game held from 2001 to 2010. As of 2019, the arena has hosted 123 tournament games, the most of any venue.
The seed line of the four at-large teams competing in the First Four has varied each year, depending on the overall ranking of the at-large teams in the field.
Seed Count Years
11 18 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015-2019 (x2), 2021 (x2), 2022, 2023 (x2)
12 4 2011, 2012, 2014, 2022
13 1 2013
14 1 2012
In the men's tournament, all sites are nominally neutral; teams are prohibited from playing tournament games on their home courts during the first, second, and regional rounds. By current NCAA rules, any court on which a team hosts more than three regular-season games (not including preseason or conference tournament games) is considered a "home court". For the First Four and the Final Four, the home court prohibition does not apply because only one venue hosts these rounds. The First Four is regularly hosted by the Dayton Flyers; as such, the team competed on their home court in 2015. Because the Final Four is hosted at indoor football stadiums, it is unlikely that a team will ever play on their home court again. The last time this was possible 1996 when the Continental Airlines Arena, home court of Seton Hall, hosted.
For the First and Second Rounds, eight venues host games, four on each day of the round. Each venue hosts two sets of four teams, referred to as "pods." To limit travel, teams are placed in pods closer to their home unless seeding rules would prevent it. Because each pod includes a top 4 seed, the highest ranked teams normally get the closest sites.