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NCAA Basketball Tournament Fast Facts

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Here’s some background information about the NCAA Men’s Basketball and Women’s Basketball Tournaments. The single-elimination tournament is nicknamed “March Madness” or “The Big Dance.”

2021 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Finals

April 5, 2021 - Men’s Finals - The Baylor Bears defeat the Gonzaga Bulldogs 86-70. This is Baylor’s first men’s NCAA basketball title.

April 4, 2021 - Women’s Finals - The Stanford Cardinal defeats the Arizona Wildcats 54-53. This is Stanford’s third national title and first since 1992.

2020 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Finals

March 12, 2020 - The NCAA announces it is canceling the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments due to concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. The men’s tournament was scheduled to begin on March 17 and end with the national championship game on April 6, and the women’s tournament was scheduled to begin March 20 and finish April 5.

Men’s Selection Process

68 teams are invited to compete.
- 32 teams receive automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments.
- 36 teams receive an at-large bid from the NCAA Selection Committee.

The 12-member selection committee, comprised of athletic directors and conference commissioners, is responsible for selecting the 36 at-large teams, seeding (or ranking) all 68 teams and placing them in one of four regions within the bracket. The committee’s field of 68 is revealed on the Sunday before the four first-round games, appropriately dubbed “Selection Sunday.”

The selection process is based on many factors including win-loss record, strength of schedule and NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) data.

Women’s Selection Process

64 teams are invited to compete.
- 32 teams receive automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments.
- 32 teams receive an at-large bid from the NCAA Selection Committee.

Similar to the men’s selection process, a 10-member selection committee chooses the 32 at-large teams, seeding (or ranking) all 64 teams and placing them in one of four regions within the bracket. (There will be 12 members starting in the 2021-2022 season.) The committee’s field of 64 is revealed on “Selection Monday,” the day before the four first-round games.

The selection process is based on many factors including win-loss record, strength of schedule and NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) data.

Other Facts

The “First Four” are the four opening round games in the Men’s tournament. Two games match number 16 seeds against each other, and the other two games feature the last four at-large teams selected into the tournament. The winners advance to the next round, the round of 64.

For both the men’s and women’s tournaments, each of the four regions consists of 16 teams that are seeded No. 1 to No. 16. In the first round, teams are paired according to seed. The No. 1 seed faces No. 16, No. 2 faces No. 15, No. 3 faces No. 14, and so forth. The winning teams advance to the second round.

The 16 teams that advance beyond their first and second-round games are referred to as the “Sweet Sixteen.” The remaining eight teams are called the “Elite Eight,” and the last four teams are the “Final Four.”

An underdog or lower-seeded team that advances throughout the tournament is often referred to as a “Cinderella” team.

UCLA has the most NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament wins with 11.

The University of Connecticut (UConn) has the most NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament wins with 11.

Timeline

1939 - The first men’s tournament is held, and eight teams compete. Oregon defeats Ohio State 46-33.

1954 - The tournament final is broadcast live nationwide for the first time.

1982 - The first women’s tournament is held, and 32 teams compete. Louisiana Tech beats Cheyney 76-62.

1991 - CBS begins broadcasting all games live.

1999 - CBS obtains an 11-year contract through 2013 worth $6 billion to broadcast the tournament.

2005 - College Sports Television begins a two-year agreement with CBS Sportsline.com and the NCAA for exclusive video streaming rights on CSTV.com for out-of-market game coverage. CSTV pays CBS $3 million for the rights and expects to be profitable in the first year.

April 22, 2010 - In addition to expanding the men’s tournament basketball field to 68 teams from 65, the NCAA announces a 14-year, $10.8 billion television rights deal with CBS and Turner Sports. The deal, which goes into effect in 2011, marks the first time that each game will be televised nationally.

April 12, 2016 - The NCAA announces an eight-year extension of its TV deal with Turner Broadcasting and CBS Sports. The extension to the current deal – for a combined total rights fee of $8.8 billion – will keep the big game at Turner and CBS until 2032.

February 20, 2018 - The NCAA Infraction Appeal Committee announces they will uphold penalties against the Louisville Cardinals Men’s Basketball team for their serious violations of NCAA rules. The Committee panel found that they “acted unethically….by arranging striptease dances and sex acts for prospects, student-athletes and others, and did not cooperate with the investigation.” The penalties include vacation of every win from 2011 to 2015, including the 2013 national championship and the 2012 Final Four appearance.

August 22, 2018 - The NCAA announces a new ranking tool, the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool). It replaces RPI, or the ranking performance index, as the method which will be used to choose which teams will be selected to participate in the tournament.

March 11, 2020 - The NCAA announces that March Madness will go on, but fans won’t be allowed to attend because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Only essential staff members and family members can attend, the NCAA says in its statement, which comes just hours after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as Covid-19, a pandemic.

March 12, 2020 - NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors cancel the men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournament, and other winter and spring NCAA championships, due to concern over the novel coronavirus. The Division I championships have been played every year since the men’s inception in 1939 and women’s in 1982.

January 4, 2021 - The NCAA announces that the entire 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be played in the state of Indiana, with the majority of the 67 scheduled games to be played in Indianapolis.

February 5, 2021 - The NCAA announces that the entire 2021 NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be played in Texas, with the majority of the 63 scheduled games to be played in San Antonio.