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March Madness Basics

Tournament Basics
Picking your Bracket
March Madness Glossary
What People Will Talk About

Tournament Basics

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, better known as “March Madness” or “The Big Dance” features three weeks of a single elimination college basketball tournament in March and April to determine the college basketball champion for the year. In the span of three weeks, these 65 teams will be whittled down to 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, and then 1, as the winners advance and the losers are eliminated.

Round 0: Play-in round. The 64 & 65th seeded teams play to determine the last spot.

Round 1 & 2: Opening rounds. 64 teams play on Thurs/Fri. The winning 32 teams play on Sat/Sun. These rounds feature 4 days of basically non-stop play. There are 8 tournament sites for first 2 rounds.

Round 3: Sweet Sixteen (Regional semi-finals) played second Thurs/Fri. Prestigious to make it to this round or further.

Round 4: Elite eight (Regional finals) played the second Sat/Sun.

Round 5: Final Four (National semi-finals) played third Sat. Tournament is shifted to final location (Atlanta in 2007).

Round 6: Championship game played 3 days later on Mon.

Who gets to go?

There are two ways teams qualify to play in the tournament. First, the champions of the 31 different conferences all receive an “automatic bid” to the tournament. Second, teams can receive an “at-large berth” for the remaining 34 slots. An NCAA national selection committee fills these at-large bids with what they consider to be the best teams across the country and use the records, strength of schedule, etc. to make their determination.

The selection committee also seeds a team so that the best teams have the easiest path to victory. With four different regions, there are 16 teams in each section. The match-ups will be as follows 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, 4 vs. 13, 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, and 8 vs. 9.

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