NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship
|No. of teams||68 (since 2011)|
|Most recent champion(s)||Duke (5)|
|Most titles||UCLA (11)|
Division I sports
Division II and III
Champions & awards
Media & culture
Records & statistics
Although there is not any official definition of what constitutes a Cinderella team, there does seem to be a consensus that such teams represent small schools, are usually low-seeded in the tournament, and achieves at least one unexpected win in the tournament. A recent example of this is Florida Gulf Coast University, a relatively new school that held its first classes in 1997 and became Division I postseason eligible in 2011. They made their first ever appearance in the 2013 tournament, winning two games to become the first ever #15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The term was popularized as a result of City College of New York's successful run in the 1950 tournament.
During recent years, the term Final Four has been used for other sports besides basketball. Tournaments which use Final Four include the Euroleague in basketball, national basketball competitions in several European countries, and the now-defunct European Hockey League. Together with the name Final Four, these tournaments have adopted an NCAA-style format in which the four surviving teams compete in a single-elimination tournament held in one place, typically, during one weekend. The derivative term "Frozen Four" is used by the NCAA to refer to the final rounds of the Division I men's and women's ice hockey tournaments. Until 1999, it was just a popular nickname for the last two rounds of the hockey tournament; officially, it was also known as the Final Four.
Some claim that the phrase Final Four was first used to describe the final games of Indiana's annual high school basketball tournament. But the NCAA, which has a trademark on the term, says Final Four was originated by a Plain Dealer sportswriter, Ed Chay, in a 1975 article that appeared in the Official Collegiate Basketball Guide. The article stated that Marquette University "was one of the final four" of the 1974 tournament. The NCAA started capitalizing the term during 1978 and converting it to a trademark several years later.
The term Final Four refers to the last four teams remaining in the playoff tournament. These are the champions of the tournament's four regional brackets, and are the only teams remaining on the tournament's final weekend. (While the term "Final Four" was not used during the early decades of the tournament, the term has been applied retroactively to include the last four teams in tournaments from earlier years, even when only two brackets existed.)
This is a popular term for the regional semifinal round of the tournament, consisting of the final 16 teams. As in the case of "March Madness", this was first used by a high school federation—in this case, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA), which has used the term for decades to describe its own season-ending tournaments. It officially registered the trademark in 1988. Unlike the situation with "March Madness", the KHSAA has retained sole ownership of the "Sweet Sixteen" trademark; it licenses the term to the NCAA for use in collegiate tournaments.
Later during the 2000s, the IHSA relinquished its ownership share in the trademark, although it retained the right to use the term in association with high school championships. During October 2010, the NCAA reached a settlement with Intersport, paying $17.2 million for the latter company's license to use the trademark.
After the ruling, the NCAA and IHSA joined forces and created the March Madness Athletic Association to coordinate the licensing of the trademark and investigate possible trademark infringement. One such case involved a company that had obtained the internet domain name marchmadness.com and was using it to post information about the NCAA tournament. During 2003, by March Madness Athletic Association v. Netfire, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided that March Madness was not a generic term, and ordered Netfire to relinquish the domain name to the NCAA.
Only during the 1990s did either the IHSA or NCAA think about trademarking the term, and by that time a small television production company named Intersport had already trademarked it. IHSA eventually bought the trademark rights from Intersport, and then went to court to establish its primacy. IHSA sued GTE Vantage, an NCAA licensee that used the name March Madness for a computer game based on the college tournament. During 1996, in a historic ruling, Illinois High School Association v. GTE Vantage, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit created the concept of a "dual-use trademark," granting both the IHSA and NCAA the right to trademark the term for their own purposes.
 Fans began associating the term with the NCAA tournament during the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that
H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (and later a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame), was the first person to use March Madness to describe a basketball tournament. Porter published an essay named March Madness during 1939, and during 1942 used the phrase in a poem, Basketball Ides of March. Through the years the use of March Madness was increased, especially in Illinois, Indiana, and other parts of the Midwest. During this period the term was used almost exclusively in reference to state high school tournaments. During 1977 Jim Enright published a book about the Illinois tournament entitled March Madness.
March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March. March Madness is also a registered trademark currently owned exclusively by the NCAA.
As indicated below, none of these phrases are exclusively used in regard to the NCAA tournament. Nonetheless, they are associated widely with the tournament, sometimes for legal reasons, sometimes just because it's become part of the American sports vernacular.
Tournament associated terms
There are numerous awards and prizes given by companies for anyone who can make the perfect bracket. One of the largest was done by a partnership between Quicken Loans and Berkshire Hathaway, which was backed by Warren Buffett, with a $1 billion prize to any person(s) who could correctly predict the outcome of the 2014 tournament. Every year since that tournament no one was able to complete the challenge and win the $1 billion prize.
There are 2^63 or 9.2 quintillion possibilities for the possible winners in a 64-team NCAA bracket, making the odds of randomly picking a perfect bracket (i.e. without weighting for seed number) 9.2 quintillion to 1. With the expansion of the tournament field to 68 teams in 2011, there are now 2^67 or 147.57 quintillion possibilities if one includes the first four opening round games.
There are many different tournament prediction scoring systems. Most award points for correctly picking the winning team in a particular match up, with increasingly more points being given for correctly predicting later round winners. Some provide bonus points for correctly predicting upsets, the amount of the bonus varying based on the degree of upset. Some just provide points for wins by correctly picked teams in the brackets.
There are pools or private gambling-related contests as to who can predict the tournament most correctly. The filling out of a tournament bracket has been referred to as a "national pastime." Filling out a tournament bracket with predictions is called the practice of "bracketology" and sports programming during the tournament is rife with commentators comparing the accuracy of their predictions. On The Dan Patrick Show, a wide variety of celebrities from various fields (such as Darius Rucker, Charlie Sheen, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Grohl, and Brooklyn Decker) have posted full brackets with predictions. President Obama's bracket is posted on the White House website.
Bracketology and pools
Popular culturemain article.
|vs. #2||vs. #3||vs. #6||vs. #7||vs. #10||vs. #11||vs. #14||vs. #15||Total|
|#1||21–21 (.500)||13–8 (.619)||6–2 (.750)||4–0 (1.000)||4–0 (1.000)||3–3 (.500)||–||–||51–34 (.600)|
|#4||4–2 (.667)||3–2 (.600)||2–1 (.667)||2–2 (.500)||2–0 (1.000)||–||–||–||13–7 (.650)|
|#5||3–0 (1.000)||1–2 (.333)||1–0 (1.000)||–||1–0 (1.000)||–||–||–||6–2 (.750)|
|#8||3–2 (.600)||0–1 (.000)||1–0 (1.000)||1–0 (1.000)||–||–||–||–||5–3 (.625)|
|#9||1–0 (1.000)||0–1 (.000)||–||–||–||–||–||–||1–1 (.500)|
|#12||0–1 (.000)||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||0–1 (.000)|
|Total||26–32 (.448)||14–17 (.452)||3–10 (.231)||2–7 (.222)||0–7 (.000)||3–3 (.500)||–||–|
Regional finals results
|vs. #3||vs. #6||vs. #11||vs. #14||Total|
|#2||23–14 (.622)||23–6 (.793)||12–1 (.923)||–||58–21 (.734)|
|#7||5–7 (.417)||3–3 (.500)||0–3 (.000)||1–0 (1.000)||9–13 (.409)|
|#10||4–9 (.308)||2–4 (.333)||0–2 (.000)||1–0 (1.000)||7–15 (.318)|
|#15||0–1 (.000)||–||–||–||0–1 (.000)|
|Total||31–32 (.492)||13–28 (.317)||6–12 (.333)||0–2 (.000)|
- In the 2/7/10/15 vs. 3/6/11/14 bracket:
|vs. #4||vs. #5||vs. #12||vs. #13||Total|
|#1||32–15 (.681)||30–7 (.811)||19–0 (1.000)||4–0 (1.000)||85–22 (.794)|
|#8||5–3 (.625)||2–0 (1.000)||0–1 (.000)||1–0 (1.000)||8–4 (.667)|
|#9||0–2 (.000)||1–1 (.500)||–||1–0 (1.000)||2–3 (.400)|
|Total||20–37 (.351)||8–33 (.195)||1–19 (.050)||0–6 (.000)|
- In the 1/8/9/16 vs. 4/5/12/13 bracket:
Round of 16 results
|vs. #5||vs. #12||Total|
|#4||36–30 (.545)||21–12 (.636)||57–42 (.576)|
|#13||3–11 (.214)||3–8 (.273)||6–19 (.240)|
|Total||41–39 (.513)||20–24 (.455)|
- In the 4/13 vs. 5/12 bracket:
|vs. #6||vs. #11||Total|
|#3||38–28 (.576)||25–13 (.658)||63–41 (.606)|
|#14||2–13 (.133)||0–5 (.000)||2–18 (.100)|
|Total||41–40 (.506)||18–25 (.419)|
- In the 3/14 vs. 6/11 bracket:
|vs. #7||vs. #10||Total|
|#2||53–20 (.726)||26–18 (.591)||79–38 (.675)|
|#15||1–2 (.333)||0–4 (.000)||1–6 (.143)|
|Total||22–54 (.289)||22–26 (.458)|
- In the 2/15 vs. 7/10 bracket:
|vs. #8||vs. #9||Total|
|#1||51–12 (.810)||56–5 (.918)||107–17 (.863)|
|Total||12–51 (.190)||5–56 (.082)|
- In the 1/16 vs. 8/9 bracket:
Round of 32 results
- The #1 seed is 124–0 against the #16 seed (1.000)
- The #2 seed is 117–7 against the #15 seed (.944)
- The #3 seed is 104–20 against the #14 seed (.839)
- The #4 seed is 99–25 against the #13 seed (.798)
- The #5 seed is 80–44 against the #12 seed (.645)
- The #6 seed is 81–43 against the #11 seed (.653)
- The #7 seed is 76–48 against the #10 seed (.613)
- The #8 seed is 63–61 against the #9 seed (.508)
Round of 64 results
Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985 through 2015 each seed-pairing has played 124 games overall, with the following results:
Seed pairing results
- Oregon (1939)
- Kentucky (1949)
- San Francisco (1956)
- Ohio State (1960)
- UCLA (1967, 1970 and 1973)
- Michigan State (1979 and 2000)
- Indiana (1981)
- Duke (2001)
- North Carolina (2009)
Achieved twelve times by nine different schools
- Teams winning the championship and obtaining a margin of 10 points in every game of the tournament
- +56 Oklahoma A&M 1945
- +52 Kentucky 1949
- +51 Indiana 1940
- +47 Kentucky 1948
- +46 Oregon 1939
Teams that played 3 games
- +95 UCLA 1967
- +85 UCLA 1968
- +78 Ohio State 1960
- +76 UCLA 1969
- +72 UCLA 1970
- +72 UCLA 1972
Teams that played 4 games
- +115 Loyola of Chicago 1963
- +113 Indiana 1981
- +104 Michigan State 1979
- +69 San Francisco 1955
- +66 Indiana 1976
Teams that played 5 games
- +129 Kentucky 1996
- +121 North Carolina 2009
- +112 UNLV 1990
- +101 Duke 2001
- +97 Louisville 2013
- +96 Florida 2006
Teams that played 6 games
- Largest point differential accumulated over the entire tournament by championship teams
Accumulated victory margins
- Indiana 69, Kansas 68 (1953)
- North Carolina 54, Kansas 53/3OT (1957)
- California 71, West Virginia 70 (1959)
- Indiana 74, Syracuse 73 (1987)
- Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79/OT (1989)
1 point, on six occasions
- Smallest margin of victory in a championship game
- North Carolina 54, Kansas 53/3OT (1957)
- Utah 42, Dartmouth 40/OT (1944)
- Cincinnati 65, Ohio St. 60/OT (1961)
- Loyola 60, Cincinnati 58/OT (1963)
- Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79/OT (1989)
- Arizona 84, Kentucky 79/OT (1997)
- Kansas 75, Memphis 68/OT (2008)
Seven times the championship game has been tied at the end of regulation. On one of those occasions (1957) the game went into double and then triple overtime.
- Overtime games in a championship game
30 points, by UNLV in 1990 (103–73, over Duke)
- Largest margin of victory in a championship game
Championship victory margins
Point differentials, or margin of victory, can be viewed either by the championship game, or by a team's performance over the whole tournament.
- John Calipari has also taken three teams to the Final Four, but two were vacated by the NCAA.
Most teams from different schools taken to the Final Four
- Connecticut: Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie
- Indiana: Branch McCracken and Bob Knight
- Louisville: Denny Crum and Rick Pitino
- Michigan State: Jud Heathcote and Tom Izzo
- North Carolina State: Norm Sloan and Jim Valvano
- UCLA: John Wooden and Jim Harrick
- Two coaches
- Kansas: Phog Allen, Larry Brown and Bill Self
- North Carolina: Frank McGuire, Dean Smith and Roy Williams
- Three coaches
- Five coaches
Schools winning a national championship under multiple coaches
- 5 Mike Krzyzewski (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015)
- 2 Roy Williams (2005, 2009)
- 2 Billy Donovan (2006, 2007)
- 2 Rick Pitino (1996, 2013)
- 1 Jim Boeheim (2003)
- 1 Larry Brown (1988)
- 1 John Calipari (2012)
- 1 Steve Fisher (1989)
- 1 Tom Izzo (2000)
- 1 Kevin Ollie (2014)
- 1 Bill Self (2008)
- 1 Tubby Smith (1998)
- 1 Rollie Massimino (1985)
Coaches in italics are active at levels below NCAA Division I.
National championships among active coaches
- Frank McGuire (1957)
- Phog Allen (1952)
- Jim Boeheim (2003)
- Larry Brown (1988)
- John Calipari (2012)
- Everett Dean (1942)
- Steve Fisher (1989)
- Bud Foster (1941)
- Joe B. Hall (1978)
- Jim Harrick (1995)
- Don Haskins (1966)
- Jud Heathcote (1979)
- Howard Hobson (1939)
- Nat Holman (1950)
- George Ireland (1963)
- Tom Izzo (2000)
- Doggie Julian (1947)
- Ken Loeffler (1954)
- Rollie Massimino (1985)
- Al McGuire (1977)
- Pete Newell (1959)
- Kevin Ollie (2014)
- Lute Olson (1997)
- Vadal Peterson (1944)
- Nolan Richardson (1994)
- Bill Self (2008)
- Everett Shelton (1943)
- Norm Sloan (1974)
- Tubby Smith (1998)
- Jerry Tarkanian (1990)
- Fred Taylor (1960)
- John Thompson (1984)
- Jim Valvano (1983)
- Gary Williams (2002)
- 1 National Championship
- Dean Smith (1982, 1993)
- Roy Williams (2005, 2009)
- Denny Crum (1980, 1986)
- Billy Donovan (2006, 2007)
- Henry Iba (1945, 1946)
- Ed Jucker (1961, 1962)
- Branch McCracken (1940, 1953)
- Rick Pitino (1996, 2013)
- Phil Woolpert (1955, 1956)
- 2 National Championships
- 3 National Championships
- Adolph Rupp (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958)
- 4 National Championships
- Mike Krzyzewski (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015)
- 5 National Championships
- John Wooden (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975)
- 10 National Championships
Most national championships
- 1978 champion Kentucky went 19–12 in 1979. The Wildcats accepted an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament, losing their first round game in overtime to Clemson, 68–67.
- Both 1979 champion Michigan State (12-15) and 1979 runner up Indiana State (16-11) failed to qualify for the 1980 NCAA tournament. Furthermore, neither was invited to the National Invitation Tournament, and Michigan State is the only team to finish the subsequent season with a losing record. Following the 1979 NCAA tournament, Indiana State lost Larry Bird to graduation, and Magic Johnson left Michigan State after his sophomore season to enter the NBA draft.
- 1983 champion North Carolina State went 19–13 in 1984. The Wolfpack accepted an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament, losing their first round game to Florida State, 74–71 in Reynolds Coliseum.
- 1986 champion Louisville went 18–14 in 1987. The team declined an invitation to the postseason National Invitation Tournament.
- 1988 champion Kansas went 19–12 in 1989. However, the team was ineligible for participation in the 1989 NCAA tournament due to NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations.
- Both 2007 champion Florida and 2007 runner up Ohio State failed to qualify for the 2008 NCAA tournament. Both accepted invitations to that year's postseason National Invitation Tournament. Each made it to that tournament's final four. Florida fell to the University of Massachusetts in the semifinals, and Ohio State beat UMass in the NIT Championship Game to win the tournament.
- 2009 champion North Carolina went 20–17 in 2010. The Tar Heels accepted an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament, in which they reached the finals, losing to Dayton.
- 2012 champion Kentucky went 21-11 in 2013 and failed to make that tournament. The Wildcats were invited to the National Invitation Tournament, where they lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the tournament.
- 2014 champion Connecticut went 20-14 in 2015 and failed to make that tournament. The Huskies were invited to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and lost to Arizona State 68-61 in the first round.
There have been 9 times in which the tournament did not include the reigning champion (the previous year's winner):
Champions absent the next year
- During 1939, Long Island University finished the regular season unbeaten but decided to accept instead an invitation to the second NIT (which they won) instead of the first and only NABC tournament (later called the NCAA tournament), as the NIT was more prestigious at the time. It wasn't until the mid-1950s that the NCAA required that its tournament would have "first choice" in determining teams for their field. Before then, many of the more successful teams during the regular season chose to play in the NIT instead of the NCAA tournament.
- During 1940, Seton Hall finished the regular season 19–0, but their record had been built largely against weak teams and thus did not earn them an invitation to the postseason tournament.
- During 1941, Milwaukee State finished the regular season 16–0, but their record had been built largely against weak teams and thus did not earn them an invitation to the postseason tournament.
- During 1944, Army finished the regular season unbeaten. But owing to World War II, the Cadets did not accept an invitation to postseason play.
- During 1954, Kentucky finished 25–0 and were invited to the tournament, but declined the invitation.
- During 1973 the North Carolina State Wolfpack finished the regular season 27–0 and ranked #2 (behind undefeated and eventual tournament champion UCLA) but were barred from participating in the NCAA tournament while on probation for recruiting violations.
- During 1979, the Alcorn State University Braves finished the regular season 27–0, but did not receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The Braves accepted a bid to the NIT, where they lost in the second round to eventual NIT champion Indiana.
The NCAA tournament has undergone dramatic expansion since the 1970s, and since the tournament was expanded to 48 teams in 1980, no unbeaten teams have failed to qualify. But before that, there were occasions on which a team achieved perfection in the regular season, yet did not appear in the NCAA tournament.
Undefeated teams not in the tournament
|1951||Columbia||21–0||Lost Sweet 16 game to Illinois|
|1956||San Francisco||24–0||Won the tournament, beat Iowa|
|1957||North Carolina||27–0||Won the tournament, beat Kansas|
|1961||Ohio State||24–0||Lost in championship game to Cincinnati|
|1964||UCLA||26–0||Won the tournament, beat Duke|
|1967||UCLA||26–0||Won the tournament, beat Dayton|
|1968||Houston||28–0||Lost in national semifinal game to UCLA|
|1968||22–0||Lost Sweet 16 game to North Carolina|
|1971||Pennsylvania||26–0||Lost Elite 8 game to Villanova|
|1971||Marquette||26–0||Lost Sweet 16 game to Ohio State|
|1972||UCLA||26–0||Won the tournament, beat Florida State|
|1973||UCLA||26–0||Won the tournament, beat Memphis State|
|1975||Indiana||29–0||Lost Elite 8 game to Kentucky|
|1976||Indiana||27–0||Won the tournament, beat Michigan|
|1976||Rutgers||27–0||Lost in national semifinal game to Michigan|
|1979||Indiana State||28–0||Lost in championship game to Michigan State|
|1991||UNLV||30–0||Lost in national semifinal game to Duke|
|2014||Wichita State||34–0||Lost in Round of 32 to Kentucky|
|2015||Kentucky||38–0||Lost in national semifinal game to Wisconsin|
Performance of undefeated teams
- 1949: Kentucky (AP)
- 1951: Kentucky (AP/UPI)
- 1953: Indiana (AP/UPI)
- 1955: San Francisco (AP/UPI)
- 1956: San Francisco (AP/UPI)
- 1957: North Carolina (AP/UPI)
- 1964: UCLA (AP/UPI)
- 1967: UCLA (AP/UPI)
- 1969: UCLA (AP/UPI)
- 1971: UCLA (AP/UPI)
- 1972: UCLA (AP/UPI)
- 1973: UCLA (AP/UPI)
- 1974: NC State (AP/UPI)
- 1975: UCLA (AP)
- 1976: Indiana (AP/UPI)
- 1978: Kentucky (AP/UPI)
- 1982: North Carolina (AP/UPI)
- 1992: Duke (AP/UPI)
- 1994: Arkansas (USA Today)
- 1995: UCLA (AP/USA Today)
- 2001: Duke (AP/USA Today)
- 2012: Kentucky (AP/USA Today)
The following teams entered the tournament ranked #1 in at least one of the AP, UPI, or USA Today polls and won the tournament:
Teams #1 in national polls
- In 1997, Arizona achieved a record when it became the only team to beat three #1 seeds in a single tournament. Arizona (#4 seed) beat Kansas in its own Southeast region, then beat North Carolina in the final four and finally Kentucky in the Championship game. The most #1 seeds any team can face in the tournament is three (provided that the team itself is not a #1 seed, in which case it can only face two #1 seeds in the tournament).
- In 2011, the highest seed to advance to the Final Four was #3 seed Connecticut, making the 2011 tournament the only time that neither a #1 seed nor a #2 seed advanced into the final weekend of play. In the same tournament, Butler made history as the first program to make consecutive Final Fours while not being seeded #1 or #2 in either season.
- There have been 16 teams that have entered the tournament unbeaten. 4 of those teams were from UCLA, and all those Bruin teams won each of those tournaments. However, of the other 12 teams entering the tournament unbeaten, just 3 went on to win the tournament. For details, see table below
- In 1980, 1981, and 1982, when the tournament was 48 teams, DePaul was seeded #1 but was defeated in the first round.
The 2002 Maryland team is the only #1 seed who has won the championship by defeating a #16, 8, 4, 2, and 1 seed — the predicted possible seeds in each round — en route to the final.
- The 2015 Wisconsin team also beat a #16, 8, 4, 2, and 1 seed — the predicted possible seeds in each round — en route to the final.
Additional #1 seed stats
- 1980 – Louisville – #2 (champion), Iowa – #5, Purdue – #6, UCLA – #8
- George Mason – #11
- 2011 – Connecticut – #3 (champion), Kentucky – #4, Butler – #8, VCU – #11
Has happened three times, twice since the field expanded to 64:
- Tournaments without a #1 seed in the Final Four
- 1982 – North Carolina beat Georgetown
- 1993 – North Carolina beat Michigan
- 1999 – Connecticut beat Duke
- 2005 – North Carolina beat Illinois
- 2007 – Florida beat Ohio State
- 2008 – Kansas beat Memphis (the year the Final Four were all #1 seeds)
- 2015 – Duke beat Wisconsin
Has happened 7 times, 6 times since the field expanded to 64:
- Two #1 seeds making it to the championship game
Has happened only once, in 2008, when Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Memphis all won their regionals. (Memphis's season was later vacated by the NCAA)
- All four #1 seeds making it to the Final Four
#1 seeds and the Final Four
Highly seeded teams
- Connecticut +9.5 over Duke, 77–74, in 1999
- Georgetown, 66–64, in 1985
- Kansas +8 over Oklahoma, 83–79, in 1988
- North Carolina State +7.5 over Houston, 54–52 in 1983
- Texas Western +6.5 over Kentucky, 72–65 in 1966
- Biggest point-spread upsets in NCAA Championship Game history:
- Norfolk State +21.5 over Missouri 86-84 in 2012
- Santa Clara +19.5 over Arizona 64–61 in 1993
- Coppin State +18.5 over South Carolina 78–65 in 1997
- Hampton +17.5 over Iowa State 58–57 in 2001
- Biggest point-spread upsets since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
As noted above, despite numerous instances of early-round tournament upsets, no #1 seed has ever lost in the first round to a #16 seed. However, while seeding is one way of measuring the impact of an upset, prior to the implementation of seeding, point spread was the better determinant of an upset, and a loss by a highly favored team remains for many the definition of "upset".
Notable point spread upsets
- Penn's 1979 Final Four appearance is also notable as they made it as a #9 seed—out of 10 teams in their region—making them the lowest seed to make the Final Four in the pre-64-team era.
- The pairing of #8 seed Butler and #11 seed VCU in the 2011 National Semifinals game had the lowest seeded combination (#8 v. #11) ever to play in a National Semifinals game.
- The lowest-seeded combination ever in the national championship game is the 2014 pairing of #7 seed Connecticut and #8 seed Kentucky.
- Richmond is the only team to win first round games ranked as a #15, #14, #13, and #12 seed.
- Butler is the only team to make consecutive Final Fours while not being a #1 or #2 seed either time (#5 in 2010, #8 in 2011).
- 2012 was the only tournament to feature two upsets by #15 seeds over #2 seeds in the round of 64.
- 1986, 1995, and 2015 were the only tournaments to feature two upsets by #14 seeds over #3 seeds in the round of 64.
- 2014 produced the highest total seed differential in a NCAA Tournament round, with 111 total. (Such as when 14 Mercer beat 3 Duke that differential is 11 and 8 Kentucky beat 1 Wichita State for that differential is 7 so the differential total after those games would be 18.)
- Georgetown is the only team to ever lose in five consecutive tournament appearances against a team seeded at least 5 spots lower:
2013 was the only tournament to have 3 teams seeded 12 or lower in the sweet sixteen.
- #12 Oregon
- #13 La Salle
- #15 Florida Gulf Coast
- 1991 and 2013 were the only years where at least one team of every seed (other than the winless #16's) advanced to the Round of 32.
- Villanova in 1985, a #8 seed, was the lowest seeded team to win the tournament.
Additional low-seed stats
- While ultimately Murray State lost to Michigan State by 4 points (75-71) in 1990, it was the only #16 team to ever take a game into overtime.
- East Tennessee State lost to Oklahoma in 1989 (1 point, 72–71)
- 1989 (1 point, 50–49)
- Western Carolina lost to Purdue in 1996 (2 points, 73–71)
- Fairleigh Dickinson lost to Michigan in 1985 (4 points, 59-55)
No team as a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed since the field was expanded to 64 or more teams, though on five occasions, a #16 seed has come within 4 or fewer points of winning:
Best performances by #16 seeds
|Seed||Sweet Sixteen||Elite Eight||Final Four||Championship Game||National Champion|
|#12||numerous (20 teams)||-||-||-|
|#11||numerous (18 teams)||-||-|
|#10||numerous (22 teams)||-||-||-|
|#7||numerous (22 teams)|
|#6||numerous (41 teams)||
numerous (13 teams)
|#5||numerous (41 teams)|
Most successful low seeds
Low seeded teams
- In Canada, TSN has owned the rights to the tournament since 2011, as a result of an international deal between the NCAA and ESPN International (which is a minority investor in TSN).
- In Australia, the ONE HD network simulcasts the CBS game coverage in HD. ESPN Australia and ESPNHD Australia also simulcast CBS game coverage. As with the Canadian telecast, ONE HD only airs selected games during the later stages of the tournament.
- In Brazil, ESPN and ESPNHD broadcast several of the early stages matchups and all of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.
- In the Philippines, AKSYON TV (TV5 sister station) airs the entire tournament since 2014. It is also the NCAA's basketball tournament's most popular market outside North America.
Outside of the United States
The Final Four has been broadcast in HDTV since 1999. From 2000 to 2004, only one first/second round site and one regional site were designated as HDTV sites. In 2005, all regional games were broadcast in HDTV, and four first and second round sites were designated for HDTV coverage. Local stations broadcasting in both digital and analog had the option of airing separate games on their HD and SD channels, to take advantage of the available high definition coverage. Beginning in 2007, all games in the tournament (including all first and second round games) were available in high definition, and local stations were required to air the same game on both their analog and digital channels. However, due to satellite limitations, first round "constant" feeds were only available in standard definition. Moreover, some digital television stations, such as WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, choose to not participate in HDTV broadcasts of the first and second rounds and the regional semifinals, and used their available bandwidth to split their signal into digital subchannels to show all games going on simultaneously. By 2008, upgrades at the CBS broadcast center allowed all feeds, flex and constant, to be in HD for the tournament.
In addition, CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports Network) had broadcast two "late early" games that would not otherwise be broadcast nationally. These were the second games in the daytime session in the Pacific Time Zone, to avoid starting games before 10 AM. These games are also available via March Madness Live and on CBS affiliates in the market areas of the team playing. In other markets, newscasts, local programming or preempted CBS morning programming are aired. CBSSN is scheduled to continue broadcasting the official pregame and postgame shows and press conferences from the teams involved, along with overnight replays.
In 2003, CBS struck a deal with Yahoo! to offer live streaming of the first three rounds of games under its Yahoo! Platinum service, for $16.95 a month. In 2004, CBS began selling viewers access to March Madness On Demand, which provided games not otherwise shown on broadcast television; the service was free for AOL subscribers. In 2006, March Madness On Demand was made free, and continued to be so to online users through the 2011 tournament. For 2012, it once again became a pay service, with a single payment of $3.99 providing access to all 67 tournament games. In 2013, the service, now renamed March Madness Live, was again made free, but uses Turner's rights and infrastructure for TV Everywhere, which requires sign-in though the password of a customer's cable or satellite provider to watch games, both via PC/Mac and mobile devices. Those that do not have a cable or satellite service or one not participating in Turner's TV Everywhere are restricted to games carried on the CBS national feed plus four hours of other games without sign-in, or coverage via Westwood One's radio coverage.
In 1999, DirecTV began broadcasting all games otherwise not shown on local television with its Mega March Madness premium package. The DirecTV system used the subscriber's ZIP code to black out games which could be seen on broadcast television. Prior to that, all games were available on C-Band satellite and were picked up by sports bars.
Viewing options emerge
During this period of near-exclusivity by CBS, the network provided to its local affiliates three types of feeds from each venue: constant feed, swing feed, and flex feed. Constant feeds remained primarily on a given game, and were used primarily by stations with a clear local interest in a particular game. Despite its name, a constant feed occasionally veered away to other games for brief updates (as is typical in most American sports coverage), but coverage generally remained with the initial game. A swing feed tended to stay on games believed to be of natural interest to the locality, such as teams from local conferences, but may leave that game to go to other games that during their progress become close matches. On a flex feed, coverage bounced around from one venue to another, depending on action at the various games in progress. If one game was a blowout, coverage could switch to a more competitive game. A flex feed was provided when there were no games with a significant natural local interest for the stations carrying them, which allowed the flex game to be the best game in progress. Station feeds were planned in advance and stations had the option of requesting either constant or flex feed for various games.
Through 2010, CBS broadcast the remaining 63 games of the NCAA tournament proper. Most areas saw only eight of 32 first round games, seven second round games, and four regional semifinal games (out of the possible 56 games during these rounds; there would be some exceptions to this rule in the 2000s). Coverage preempted regular programming on the network, except during a 2-hour window from about 5 ET until 7 ET when the local affiliates could show programming. The CBS format resulted in far fewer hours of first-round coverage than under the old ESPN format but allowed the games to reach a much larger audience than ESPN was able to reach.
However, ESPN became a victim of its own success, as CBS was awarded the rights to cover all games of the NCAA tournament, starting in 1991. Only with the introduction of the so-called "play-in" game (between the 64 seed and the 65 seed) in the 2000s, did ESPN get back in the game (and actually, the first time this "play-in" game was played in 2001, the game was aired on TNN, using CBS graphics and announcers. CBS and TNN were both owned by Viacom at the time).
CBS takes over
The same year as CBS obtained rights to the Big Dance, ESPN began showing the opening rounds of the tournament. This was the network's first contract signed with the NCAA for a major sport, and helped to establish ESPN's following among college basketball fans. ESPN showed six first-round games on Thursday and again on Friday, with CBS then picking up a seventh game at 11:30 pm ET. Thus, 14 of 32 first-round games were televised. ESPN also re-ran games overnight. At the time, there was only one ESPN network, with no ability to split its signal regionally, so ESPN showed only the most competitive games. During the 1980s, the tournament's popularity on television soared, no doubt due to the extensive coverage provided by ESPN.
In 1982, CBS obtained broadcast television rights to the NCAA tournament.
From 1969 to 1981, the NCAA tournament aired on NBC, but not all games were televised. The early rounds, in particular, were not always seen on TV.
Early broadcast coverage
CBS has been the major partner of the NCAA in televising the tournament since 1982, but there have been many changes in coverage since the tournament was first broadcast in 1969.
History of television coverage
The Division I Men's Basketball tournament is the only NCAA championship tournament where the NCAA does not keep the profits.
- 1/6 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many sports they play (one "share" for each sport starting with 14, which is the minimum needed for Division I membership).
- 1/3 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many scholarships they give out (one share for each of the first 50, two for each of the next 50, ten for each of the next 50, and 20 for each scholarship above 150).
- 1/2 of the money goes to the conferences based on how well they did in the six previous men's basketball tournaments (counting each year separately, one share for each team getting in, and one share for each win except in the Final Four and, prior to the 2008 tournament, the Play-in game). In 2007, based on the 2001 through 2006 tournaments, the Big East received over $14.85 million, while the eight conferences that did not win a first-round game in those six years received slightly more than $1 million each. Most conferences distribute most of the revenue evenly to its member institutions, regardless of performance.
The CBS broadcast provides the NCAA with over $500 million annually, and makes up over 90% of the NCAA's annual revenue. The revenues from the multibillion-dollar television contract are divided among the Division I basketball playing schools and conferences as follows:
Since 2015, CBS and TBS split coverage of the Elite Eight. Starting 2016 CBS and TBS will alternate coverage of the Final Four and national championship game, with TBS getting the final two rounds in even-numbered years, and CBS getting the games in odd-numbered years. March Madness On Demand would remain unchanged, although Turner was allowed to develop their own service.
The current contract runs through 2024 and, for the first time in history, provides for the nationwide broadcast each year of all games of the tournament. All First Four games air on truTV. A featured first- or second-round game in each time "window" is broadcast on CBS, while all other games are shown either on TBS, TNT or truTV. The regional semifinals, better known as the Sweet Sixteen, are split between CBS and TBS. CBS had the exclusive rights to the regional finals, also known as the Elite Eight, through 2014. That exclusivity extended to the entire Final Four as well, but after the 2013 tournament Turner Sports elected to exercise a contracual option for 2014 and 2015 giving TBS broadcast rights to the national semifinal matchups. CBS kept its national championship game rights.
Broadcasters from CBS, TBS, and TNT's sports coverage are shared across all four networks, with CBS' college basketball teams supplemented with Turner's NBA teams, while studio segments take place at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City and Turner's studios in Atlanta. In the New York-based studio shows, CBS' Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg are joined by Ernie Johnson, Jr., Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley of TNT's Inside the NBA while Seth Davis of CBS assists with Matt Winer and various NBA TV personalities. While Turner's primary NBA voices, Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan, are already employed by CBS in other capacities, they also lend analysts Chris Webber, Grant Hill, and Reggie Miller and secondary play-by-play man Brian Anderson to CBS. In turn, CBS announcers Jim Nantz, Verne Lundquist, Spero Dedes, and Andrew Catalon appear on Turner network broadcasts along with analysts Len Elmore, Bill Raftery, Dan Bonner, Mike Gminski, and Doug Gottlieb.
Since 2010, the NCAA has had a joint contract with CBS and Turner Sports, a division of Time Warner (which co-owns the CW Television Network with CBS). The coverage of the tournament is split between CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV.
Current television contracts
Television coverage and revenues
The researchers determined that a player who outperforms his regular season averages or who is on a team that wins more games than its seed would indicate will be drafted higher than he otherwise would have been. At the same time, the study indicated that professional teams don't take college tournament performance into consideration as much as they should, as success in the tournament correlates with elite professional accomplishment, particularly top-level success, where a player makes the NBA All-Star Team three or more times. "If anything, NBA teams undervalue the signal provided by unexpected performance in the NCAA March Madness tournament as a predictor of future NBA success."
Because the National Basketball Association Draft takes place just three months after the NCAA tournament, NBA executives have to decide how players' performances in a maximum of seven games, from the first round to the championship game, should affect their draft decisions. A 2012 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research explores how the March tournament affects the way that professional teams behave in the June draft. The study is based on data from 1997 to 2010 that looks at how college tournament standouts performed at the NBA level.
Influence on the NBA draft
After the championship trophy is awarded, one player is selected and then awarded the Most Outstanding Player award (which almost always comes from the championship team). It is not intended to be the same as a Most Valuable Player award although it is sometimes informally referred to as such.
Most Outstanding Player
The National Association of Basketball Coaches also presents a more elaborate marble/crystal trophy to the winning team. Ostensibly, this award is given for taking the top position in the NABC's end-of-season poll, but this is invariably the same as the NCAA championship game winner. In 2005, Siemens AG acquired naming rights to the NABC trophy, which is now called the Siemens Trophy. Formerly, the NABC trophy was presented right after the standard NCAA championship trophy, but this caused some confusion. Since 2006, the Siemens/NABC Trophy has been presented separately at a press conference the day after the game.
The champions also receive a commemorative gold championship ring, and the other three Final Four teams receive Final Four rings.
Just as the Olympics awards gold/silver/bronze for 1st/2nd/3rd place, the NCAA awards the National Champions a gold plated Wooden NCAA National Championship trophy. The loser of the championship game receives a silver plated National Runner-Up trophy for second place. All four Final Four teams since 2006 receive a bronze plated NCAA Regional Championship trophy. Prior to 2006, only the teams who did not make the title game received bronze plated trophies for third place.
As a tournament ritual, the winning team cuts down the nets at the end of regional championship games as well as the national championship game. Starting with the seniors, and moving down by classes, players each cut a single strand off of each net; the head coach cuts the last strand connecting the net to the hoop, claiming the net itself. An exception to the head coach cutting the last strand came in 2013, when Louisville head coach Rick Pitino gave that honor to Kevin Ware, who had suffered a catastrophic leg injury during the tournament. This tradition is credited to Everett Case, the coach of North Carolina State, who stood on his players' shoulders to accomplish the feat after the Wolfpack won the Southern Conference tournament in 1947.
Cutting down the nets
Trophies, rituals, influence on NBA draft
The NCAA has banned the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, originally known as Bi-Lo Center, and Colonial Life Arena, originally Colonial Center, in South Carolina from hosting tournament games, despite their sizes (16,000 and 18,000 seats, respectively) because of an NAACP protest at the Bi-Lo Center during the 2002 first and second round tournament games over that state's refusal to completely remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the state capitol grounds, although it had already been relocated from atop the capitol dome to a less prominent place in 2000. Following requests by the NAACP and Black Coaches Association, the Bi-Lo Center, and the newly built Colonial Center, which was built for purposes of hosting the tournament, were banned from hosting any future tournament events. As a result of the removal of the battle flag from the South Carolina State Capitol, the NCAA lifted its ban on South Carolina hosting games in 2015, although all venues have been determined through 2018.
While not its home state, Kansas has played in the championship game in Kansas City, Missouri, only 45 minutes from the campus in Lawrence, Kansas, not just once, but four times. In 1940, 1953, and 1957 the Jayhawks lost the championship game each time at Municipal Auditorium. In 1988, playing at Kansas City's Kemper Arena, Kansas won the championship, over Big Eight rival Oklahoma. Similarly, in 2005 Illinois played in St. Louis, Missouri, where it enjoyed a noticeable homecourt advantage, yet still lost in the championship game to North Carolina.
In 1974, North Carolina State won the NCAA tournament without leaving their home state of North Carolina. The team was put in the East Region, and played its regional games at its home arena Reynolds Coliseum. NC State played the final four and national championship games at nearby Greensboro Coliseum.
Before the Final Four was established, the East and West regionals were held at separate sites, with the winners advancing to the title game. During that era, three teams, all from Manhattan, played in the East Regional at Madison Square Garden—frequently used as a "big-game" venue by each team—and advanced at least to the national semifinals. NYU won the East Regional in 1945 but lost in the title game, also held at the Garden, to Oklahoma A&M. CCNY played in the East Regional in both 1947 and 1950; the Beavers lost in the 1947 East final to eventual champion Holy Cross but won the 1950 East Regional and national titles at the Garden.
In 1960, Cal had nearly as large an edge, only having to cross the San Francisco Bay to play in the Final Four at the Cow Palace in Daly City; the Golden Bears lost in the championship game to Ohio State. UCLA had a similar advantage in 1968 and 1972 when it advanced to the Final Four at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, not many miles from the Bruins' homecourt of Pauley Pavilion (also UCLA's home arena before the latter venue opened in 1965, and again during the 2011-12 season while Pauley was closed for renovations); unlike Louisville and Cal, the Bruins won the national title on both occasions. Butler lost the 2010 title 6 miles (9.7 km) from its Indianapolis campus and was regarded as the host school, as it is most times whenever the NCAA holds a tournament in Indianapolis (in the 2013 tournament, Butler's former conference, the Horizon League, was considered the host for the Midwest Regional rather than Butler).
Since the inception of the modern Final Four in 1952, only once has a team played a Final Four on its actual home court (Louisville in 1959). But through the 2015 tournament, three other teams have played the Final Four in their home cities, one other team has played in its metropolitan area, and six additional teams have played the Final Four in their home states through the 2015 tournament. Kentucky (1958 in Louisville), UCLA (1968, 1972, 1975 in Los Angeles), and North Carolina State (1974 in Greensboro) won the national title; Louisville (1959 at its home arena, Freedom Hall); Purdue (1980 in Indianapolis) lost in the Final Four; and California (1960 in suburban San Francisco), Duke (1994 in Charlotte), Michigan State (2009 in Detroit), and Butler (2010 in Indianapolis) lost in the final.
In only two occasions have NCAA tournament teams played their games in their home arena. In 1959, Louisville played at its regular home of Freedom Hall; however, the Cardinals lost to West Virginia in the semifinals. In 2015, Dayton played at its regular home of UD Arena, and the Flyers beat Boise State in the First Four.
Home court advantage
On June 12, 2013, Katz reported that the NCAA had changed its policy. In July 2013, the NCAA had a portal available on its website for venues to make Final Four proposals in the 2017–2020 period, and there were no restrictions on proposals based on venue size. Also, the NCAA decided that future regionals will no longer be held in domes. In Katz' report, Lewis indicated that the use of domes for regionals was intended as a dry run for future Final Four venues, but this particular policy was no longer necessary because all of the Final Four sites from 2014 to 2016 had already hosted regionals. At least one other report indicated that the new policy would still allow a completely new domed stadium, or an existing dome that has never hosted a Final Four (such as University of Phoenix Stadium), to receive a regional if it is awarded a future Final Four. In November 2014, reflecting the new policy's effect, the NCAA announced that University of Phoenix Stadium would host the Final Four in 2017.
The first instance of a domed stadium being used for a NCAA Tournament Final Four was the Houston Astrodome in 1971, but the Final Four would not return to a dome until 1982, when the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans hosted the event for the first time.
Two domed stadiums that have hosted past Final Fours—the Alamodome (1998, 2004, 2008) and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida (1999)—were considered too small to be eligible to host, despite the Alamodome being a college football stadium and having a permanent seating capacity of 65,000. The basketball setup at the Alamodome uses only half of the stadium and has a capacity of 39,500.
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
- AT&T Stadium, originally known as Cowboys Stadium, holds the world record basketball attendance when 108,713 attended the 2010 NBA All-Star Game.
- Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
- Ford Field, Detroit
- The Georgia Dome will be replaced by a new retractable-roof stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in 2017.
- Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
- Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
- NRG Stadium, Houston
- University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona – will host in 2017.
Under then-current criteria, only eight stadiums, all current NFL venues, could be considered as Final Four locations:
I don't know where this will lead, if anywhere, but the right thing is to sit down and have these conversations and see if we want our championship in more than eight cities or do we like playing exclusively in domes. None of the cities where we play our championship is named New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami. We don't play on a campus. We play in professional football arenas.
During September 2012, the NCAA began preliminary discussions on the possibility of returning occasional Final Fours to basketball-specific arenas in major metropolitan areas. According to ESPN.com writer Andy Katz, when Mark Lewis was hired as NCAA executive vice president for championships during 2012, "he took out a United States map and saw that both coasts are largely left off from hosting the Final Four." Lewis added in an interview with Katz,
From 1997 to 2013, the NCAA required that all Final Four sessions take place in domed stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000, usually having only half of the dome in use. The Metrodome in Minneapolis, which usually hosted baseball and football, had one of the long ends of the court along the first base line with temporary stands surrounding the court so that much of the outfield is isolated from the action. The same was true of football stadiums like the Alamodome in San Antonio and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The last NBA arena to host the Final Four was Continental Airlines Arena in 1996. As of 2009, the minimum was increased to 70,000, by adding additional seating on the floor of the dome, and raising the court on a platform three feet above the dome's floor, which is usually crowned for football, like the setup at Ford Field in Detroit which hosted the 2009 Final Four.
Stadium size and domes
For a list of all the cities and arenas that have hosted the Final Four, go to Host cities, below. Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri hosted the Final Four eight times followed by the third Madison Square Garden in New York City which hosted seven times, and Louisville's Freedom Hall which hosted six times.
- Since 2004, the semi-final matches during the first day of the Final Four weekend have been determined by a procedure based upon the original seeding of the full field. Prior to 2004, the pitting of regional champions in the semi-finals was on a rotational basis.
- From 1985 to 2010, the round consisting of 64 teams and 32 games was called the "first round", while the round consisting of 32 teams and 16 games was called the "second round". From 2011 to 2015, the "First Four" became the first round. The round after the "First Four" is the "second round", and consists of 64 teams playing 32 games; it is played on Thursday and Friday. The next round, the "third round", consists of 32 teams playing 16 games that are played on Saturday and Sunday.
- In 2016, the round after the "First Four" will revert to its prior name, the "first round", and will consist of 64 teams playing 32 games that are played on Thursday and Friday. The next round will also revert to its prior name, the "second round", and will consist of 32 teams playing 16 games that are played on Saturday and Sunday.
- Each of the eight first- and second-round sites is assigned two pods, where each group of four teams play each other. A host site's pods may be from different regions, and thus the winners of each pod would advance into separate regional tournaments.
- Prior to 1975, only one team per conference could be in the NCAA tournament. However, after several highly ranked teams in the country were denied entrance into the tournament (e.g., South Carolina, which was 14-0 in conference play during 1970, Southern Cal, which was ranked #2 in the nation during 1971, and Maryland, which was ranked #3 in the nation in 1974), the NCAA began to place at-large teams in the tournament, instead of just conference champions. At times during the pre-at-large era, the NIT tournament competed for prestige with the NCAA tournament. However, in the 1950s the NCAA ruled that no team could compete in both tournaments, in effect indicating that if a team were eligible for the NCAA tournament, it had better play in it. Since then, the NCAA tournament has clearly been the major one, with conference champions and the majority of the top-ranked teams participating in it.
- Currently, there are not any consolation games, but there was a third-place game from 1946 to 1981. Additionally, each regional had a third-place game through the 1975 tournament.
- Beginning during 2001, the field was expanded from 64 to 65 teams, adding to the tournament what was informally known as the "play-in game." This was in response to the creation of the Mountain West Conference during 1999. Originally, the winner of the Mountain West's tournament did not receive an automatic bid, and doing so would mean the elimination of one of the at-large bids. As an alternative to eliminating an at-large bid, the NCAA expanded the tournament to 65 teams. The #64 and #65 seeds were seeded in a regional bracket as the 16a/16b seeds, and then played the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Opening Round Game (the "play-in game") on the Tuesday preceding the first weekend of the tournament. This game was always played at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
- During 2011, the tournament expanded to 68 teams. Four "play-in" games are now played, officially known as the "First Four". However, the teams playing in the First Four are not automatically seeded #16; their seeding is determined by the committee on Selection Sunday. Explaining the reasoning for this format, selection committee chairman Dan Guerrero said, "We felt if we were going to expand the field it would create better drama for the tournament if the First Four was much more exciting. They could all be on the 10 line or the 12 line or the 11 line."
For the 1985 to 2001 tournaments, all teams playing at a first- or second-round site fed into the same regional site. Since 2002, the tournament has used the "pod system" designed to limit the early-round travel of as many teams as possible. In the pod system, each regional bracket is divided into four-team pods. The possible pods by seeding are:
- Pod #1: 1v16, 8v9
- Pod #2: 2v15, 7v10
- Pod #3: 3v14, 6v11
- Pod #4: 4v13, 5v12
- After the conclusion of the 2010 tournament, there was much speculation about increasing the tournament size to as many as 128 teams. On April 1, 2010, the NCAA announced that it was looking at expanding to 96 teams for 2011. On April 22, 2010, the NCAA announced a new television contract with CBS/Turner that would expand the field, but only to 68 teams.
The NCAA tournament has expanded a number of times throughout its history. This is a breakdown of the history of the tournament formats:
- 1939–1950: 8 teams
- 1951–1952: 16 teams
- 1953–1974: varied between 22 and 25 teams
- 1975–1978: 32 teams
- 1979: 40 teams
- 1980–1982: 48 teams
- 1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
- 1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
- 1985–2000: 64 teams
- 2001–2010: 65 teams (one play-in game to determine whether the 64th or 65th team plays in the first round)
- 2011–present: 68 teams (four play-in games before all remaining teams compete in the first round)
Expansion of field
The NCAA tournament has changed its format many times over the years. Below are listed many of these changes.
Evolution of the tournament
|St. Francis Brooklyn|
|William & Mary|
Through the 2015 NCAA Tournament, there are five schools who have been Division I members since the classification began in 1948 who have never reached the national tournament.
|Yale||1962||-||53 years and counting|
|Tennessee Tech||1963||-||52 years and counting|
|Bowling Green||1968||-||47 years and counting|
|Columbia||1968||-||47 years and counting|
|Seattle||1969||-||46 years and counting (15 of those being in-eligible)|
|Rice||1970||-||45 years and counting|
|Washington State||1941||1980||39 years|
|Duquesne||1977||-||38 years and counting|
|VMI||1977||-||38 years and counting|
|Toledo||1980||-||33 years and counting|
|Cal State Fullerton||1978||2008||30 years|
|Loyola Chicago||1985||-||30 years and counting|
|Marshall||1987||-||28 years and counting|
|Georgia Tech||1960||1985||25 years|
|Oregon State||1990||-||25 years and counting|
|Rutgers||1991||-||24 years and counting|
|Southern Methodist||1993||2015||22 years|
List of schools with longest time between NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament appearances:
|UCLA||11||1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995|
|Kentucky||8||1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012|
|North Carolina||5||1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009|
|Duke||5||1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015|
|Indiana||5||1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987|
|Connecticut||4||1999, 2004, 2011, 2014|
|Louisville||3||1980, 1986, 2013|
|Kansas||3||1952, 1988, 2008|
|Michigan State||2||1979, 2000|
|North Carolina State||2||1974, 1983|
|San Francisco||2||1955, 1956|
|Oklahoma State||2||1945, 1946|
- The following is a list of all schools that have won at least one NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, along with what years they have won their championship(s).
Titles by school
Titles by year
Winners and Appearances
The winners of each region advance to the Final Four, where the national semifinals are played on Saturday and the national championship is played on Monday. As noted above, which regional champion will play which, and in which semifinal they play, is determined by the overall rankings of the four #1 ranks in the original bracket, not on the ranks of the eventual Final Four teams themselves.
The teams that are still competing after the first weekend advance to the regional semifinals (the Sweet Sixteen) and finals (the Elite Eight), which are played during the second weekend of the tournament (again, the games are split into Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday). Four regional semi-final games are played Thursday and four are played Friday. After Friday's games, 8 teams (the Elite Eight) remain. Saturday features two regional final games matching Thursday's winners and Sunday's two final games match Friday's winners. After the second weekend of the tournament, the four regional champions are the "Final Four."
Regional semifinals and finals
The Second Round (the Round of 32) is played on Saturday and Sunday immediately after the first round. The second round consists of Thursday's winners playing in eight games on Saturday, followed by Friday's winners playing in the remaining eight second-round games on Sunday. Thus, after the first weekend, 16 teams remain, commonly known as the "Sweet Sixteen."
During the First Round (the Round of 64), the #1 rank plays the #16 rank in all regions; the #2 team plays the #15, and so on. The effect of this ranking structure ensures that the better a team is ranked, the worse-ranked (and presumably weaker) their opponents will be. Sixteen first-round games are played on the Thursday following the "First Four" round. The remaining sixteen first-round games are played Friday. At this point the contestants are reduced to 32 teams.
First and Second Rounds
Prior to expanding from 65 to 68 teams, the two lowest seeded teams played in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Opening Round game. Both the single Opening Round game and the current First Four games have been played at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
Every year that the First Four has taken place, at least one of the teams that participated went on to win in the round of 64. In 2011, VCU was part of the First Four and advanced all the way to the Final Four. In 2012, South Florida advanced to the round of 32. In 2013, La Salle advanced to the round of 16 by defeating Boise State, Wisconsin, and Ole Miss. In 2014, Tennessee advanced to the round of 16 by defeating Iowa, Massachusetts, and Mercer. Most recently in 2015, Dayton won its First Four game on their home court and then defeated Providence to advance to the round of 32.
While other NCAA tournament games are played Thursday through Sunday (and the final game on a Monday), the First Four games are played earlier in the first week, between Selection Sunday and the First Round on Thursday and Friday. To date, two games are played on the Tuesday following Selection Sunday, and the remaining two are played on Wednesday. Once the First Four games are played, the four winning teams assume their places in the bracket of 64 teams, and must play again later that week, with little rest. Typically, the two Tuesday winners are paired with their next opponent on Thursday; and, the Wednesday winners play on Friday. With the Second Round being played on Saturday and Sunday, this scheduling allows for six consecutive days of televised competition during the first week of the tournament.
The "First Four" refers to the number of games played, not the number of teams. First held during 2011, the First Four are games between the lowest four at-large teams and the lowest four automatic bid (conference champion) teams. They are not normally the lowest eight teams in the field; the lowest four at-large teams usually have higher rankings among the entire field of 68 than several of the automatic bid teams coming from the smaller conferences. The four games are held to determine which teams will assume a place in the First Round. Unlike other early games in the tournament, the teams are not matched with disparity intended. Rather, equality governs match ups (e.g., in one game two teams, usually the two lowest automatic bid teams, might play for a #16 seeding in the first round, while in another game two teams, usually two of the four lowest at-large teams, are trying to advance as an 11-seed).
The tournament is single-elimination, increasing the chance of an underdog "Cinderella team" advancing; although these lower-ranked teams are forced to play stronger teams, they need only one win to advance (instead of winning a majority of games in a series, as in professional basketball).
- The First Four
- The First Round
- The Second Round
- The Regional Semi-finals (participating teams are known popularly as the "Sweet Sixteen")
- The Regional Finals (participating teams are known commonly as the "Elite Eight")
- The National Semi-finals (participating teams are referred to officially as the "Final Four")
- The National Championship
The tournament consists of several rounds. They are currently named:
However, while a team can be moved to a different region if its home court is being used during any of the first two weeks of the tournament, the Final Four venue is determined years in advance, and cannot be changed regardless of participants. For this reason, in theory, a team could play in a Final Four on its home court; in reality, this would be unlikely, since the Final Four is usually staged at a venue larger than most college basketball arenas. (The most recent team to play the Final Four in its home city was Butler during 2010; its home court seats only 10,000, as opposed to the 70,000-plus of Lucas Oil Stadium in its Final Four configuration.)
In the men's tournament, all sites are nominally neutral: teams are prohibited from playing tournament games on their home courts prior to the Final Four (though in some cases, a team may be fortunate enough to play in or near its home state or city). By current NCAA rules, any court on which a team hosts more than three regular-season games (in other words, not including conference tournament games) is considered a "home court". The exception to this rule is the University of Dayton, which would be allowed to play a game in the "First Four" round in their home arena as they did in 2015.
The bracket is thus established, and during the semifinals, the champion of the top overall number 1 seed's region will play against the champion of the fourth-ranked number 1 seed's region, and the champion of the second-ranked number 1 seed's region will play against the champion of the third-ranked number 1 seed's region.
The selection committee is also instructed to place teams so that whenever possible, conference teams cannot meet until the regional finals. Additionally, they are also instructed to avoid any possible rematches of regular season or previous year's tournament games during the First and Second rounds. Further restrictions are listed in the Venues section below. To comply with these other requirements, the selection committee may move one or several teams up or down one seed from their respective original seed line. Thus, for example, the 40th overall seeded team, originally slated to be a #10 seed within a particular region, may instead be moved up to a #9 seed or moved down to a #11 seed.
The selection committee seeds the whole field of 68 teams from 1-68, but did not make this information public until 2012. The committee then divides the teams amongst the regions. The top four teams will be distributed among the four regions, and each will receive a #1 rank within that region. The next four ranked teams will then be distributed among the four regions, each receiving a #2 rank with their region, and the process continues down the line. Carried to its logical conclusion, this would give each region seventeen teams ranked 1-17, but as seen below, this is complicated somewhat (see the next paragraph and the The First Four section below).
Seeding and bracket
The names of the regions vary from year to year, and are broadly geographic (such as "Southeast", "East", or "Midwest"). The selected names roughly correspond to the location of the four cities hosting the regional finals. For example, during 2012, the regions were named South (Atlanta, Georgia), East (Boston, Massachusetts), Midwest (St. Louis, Missouri), and West (Phoenix, Arizona).
The tournament is divided into four regions and each region has at least sixteen teams, but four additional teams are added per the decision of the Selection Committee. (See First Four). The committee is charged with making each of the four regions as close as possible in overall quality of teams from wherever they come from.
The remaining thirty-six tournament slots are granted to at-large bids, which are determined by the Selection Committee in a nationally televised event on the Sunday preceding the First Four play-in tournament and dubbed Selection Sunday by the media and fans, by a group primarily of conference commissioners and school athletic directors who are appointed into service by the NCAA. The committee also determines where all sixty-eight teams are seeded and placed in the bracket.
A total of 68 teams qualify for the tournament played during March and April. Thirty-two teams earn automatic bids as their respective conference champions. Thirty-one of the thirty-two conferences hold championship tournaments to determine which team receives the automatic qualification. The Ivy League is the only conference that does not conduct a tournament. Instead its regular season champion automatically receives a tournament berth. A one-game playoff determines the berth if two Ivies share a regular season championship.
The NCAA has changed the tournament format several times since its inception, most often representing an increase of the number of teams. This section describes the tournament as it has operated since 2011. For changes during the course of its history, and to see how the tournament operated during past years, go to Format history, below.
Current tournament format
Current tournament format 1
- Qualifying 1.1
- Seeding and bracket 1.2.1
- Venues 1.2.2
- First Four 1.3.1
- First and Second Rounds 1.3.2
- Regional semifinals and finals 1.3.3
- Final Four 1.3.4
Winners and Appearances 2
- Titles by year 2.1
- Titles by school 2.2
- Tournament droughts 2.3
Evolution of the tournament 3
Format history 3.1
- Expansion of field 3.1.1
- Other changes 3.1.2
- Stadium size and domes 3.2.1
- Home court advantage 3.2.2
- Flag controversy 3.2.3
- Format history 3.1
Trophies, rituals, influence on NBA draft 4
- Cutting down the nets 4.1
- Team awards 4.2
- Most Outstanding Player 4.3
- Influence on the NBA draft 4.4
Television coverage and revenues 5
- Current television contracts 5.1
History of television coverage 5.2
- Early broadcast coverage 5.2.1
- ESPN & CBS share coverage 5.2.2
- CBS takes over 5.2.3
- Viewing options emerge 5.2.4
- HDTV coverage 5.2.5
- Outside of the United States 5.3
Tournament statistics 6
Low seeded teams 6.1
- Most successful low seeds 6.1.1
- Best performances by #16 seeds 6.1.2
- Additional low-seed stats 6.1.3
- Notable point spread upsets 6.1.4
Highly seeded teams 6.2
- #1 seeds and the Final Four 6.2.1
- Additional #1 seed stats 6.2.2
- Teams #1 in national polls 6.2.3
- Performance of undefeated teams 6.2.4
- Undefeated teams not in the tournament 6.2.5
- Champions absent the next year 6.2.6
- Most national championships 6.3.1
- National championships among active coaches 6.3.2
- Schools winning a national championship under multiple coaches 6.3.3
- Most teams from different schools taken to the Final Four 6.3.4
Point differentials 6.4
- Championship victory margins 6.4.1
- Accumulated victory margins 6.4.2
Seed pairing results 6.5
- Round of 64 results 6.5.1
- Round of 32 results 6.5.2
- Round of 16 results 6.5.3
- Regional finals results 6.5.4
- Low seeded teams 6.1
- Host cities 7
Popular culture 8
- Bracketology and pools 8.1
Tournament associated terms 8.2
- March Madness 8.2.1
- Sweet Sixteen 8.2.2
- Final Four 8.2.3
- Cinderella team 8.2.4
- See also 9
- References 10
- External links 11
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 is 2nd, with 8 national titles, while the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Indiana University are tied for 3rd with 5 national titles. The University of Connecticut is 6th with 4 national titles. After that the University of Kansas and University of Louisville are tied with 3 championships. Since 2000, Duke and Connecticut have each won three championships; Florida and North Carolina have won two championships; and Maryland, Syracuse, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville have all won one championship.
The tournament has been at least partially televised since 1969. Currently, the games are broadcast by CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV by the trade-name NCAA March Madness. Since 2011, all games are available for viewing nationwide and internationally, such as in the Philippines and Canada. 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 all 67 games of the tournament.
The tournament teams include champions from 32 Division I conferences (which receive 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 an initial four games between eight lower-ranked teams, the tournament occurs during the course of three weekends, at pre-selected neutral sites across the United States. Lower-ranked teams are placed in the bracket against higher ranked teams. Each weekend eliminates three quarters of the teams, from the first round consisting of 64 teams, to a "Sweet Sixteen", and for the last weekend of the tournament, a Final Four. The Final Four is usually played during the first weekend of April. These four teams, one from each region (East, South, Midwest, and West), then compete in one centralized location for the national championship.