No. of teams
68 (since 2011)
Most recent champion(s)
Number of teams
CBS TNT TruTV TBS CBS Sports Network (re-airs) Galavision (Spanish-coverage)
2017 NCAA Division I, 2016 NCAA Division I, 2015 NCAA Division I, 2014 NCAA Division I, 2013 NCAA Division I
The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament 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 championship. The tournament was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and was the idea of Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen. Played mostly during March, it is known informally as March Madness or the Big Dance, and has become one of the most famous annual sporting events in the United States.
- Current tournament format
- Seeding and bracket
- First Four
- First and Second Rounds
- Regional semifinals and finals
- Final Four
- Titles by school
- Tournament droughts
- Format history
- Expansion of field
- Other changes
- Stadium size and domes
- Home court advantage
- Flag controversy
- House Bill 2
- Cutting down the nets
- Team awards
- Most Outstanding Player
- Influence on the NBA draft
- Current television contracts
- History of television coverage
- Early broadcast coverage
- ESPN CBS share coverage
- CBS takes over
- Viewing options emerge
- HDTV coverage
- International broadcasts
- Most successful low seeds
- Best performances by No 16 seeds
- Additional low seed stats
- Notable point spread upsets
- All No 1 seeds in the Final Four
- Final Fours without a No 1 seed
- No 1 seeds in the Championship Game
- Additional No 1 seed stats
- Teams No 1 in national polls
- Performance of undefeated teams
- Undefeated teams not in the tournament
- Champions absent the next year
- Mid Major Teams
- Defunct conferences and independents
- Most national championships
- National championships among active coaches
- Schools winning a national championship under multiple coaches
- Most teams from different schools taken to the Final Four
- Point differentials
- Championship victory margins
- Accumulated victory margins
- Seed pairing results
- Round of 64 results
- Round of 32 results
- Round of 16 results
- Host cities
- Bracketology and pools
- Tournament associated terms
- March Madness
- Sweet Sixteen
- Cinderella team
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 on the Sunday preceding the First Four play-in games, currently held in Dayton, Ohio, and 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 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. Teams, seeded by rank, proceed through a single game elimination bracket beginning with a 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), compete in one location for the national championship.
The tournament has been at least partially televised since 1969. Currently, the games are broadcast by CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV under 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.
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, while the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Indiana University are tied for third with five national titles. The University of Connecticut is sixth with four national titles. The University of Kansas (KU) and University of Louisville are tied with three championships. Since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams, Duke has won five championships; Connecticut has four; Kentucky and North Carolina have three; and Kansas, Louisville, Florida, and Villanova have two; UCLA, Indiana, and Michigan State have one. Michigan, UNLV, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, and Syracuse all won their first championships.
Current tournament format
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.
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. Of the 32 Division I "all-sports" conferences (defined as those that sponsor men's and women's basketball), 31 currently hold championship tournaments to determine which team receives the automatic qualification. The Ivy League was the last Division I conference that did not conduct a tournament; through the 2015–16 season, it awarded its tournament berth to the regular-season champion. If two or more Ivies shared a regular-season championship, a one-game playoff (or series of such playoffs) was used to decide the tournament participant. Since 2017, the league conducts their own postseason tournament.
The remaining 36 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.
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 names of the regions vary from year to year, and are broadly geographic (such as "West", "South", "East", and "Midwest"). From 1956 to 1984, the "Mideast", roughly corresponding to the Southeastern region of the United States, designation was used. From 1985 to 1998, the Mideast region was known as "Southeast" and again changed to "South" starting from 1999. The selected names roughly correspond to the location of the four cities hosting the regional finals. From 2004 to 2006, the regions were named after their host cities, e.g. the Phoenix Regional in 2004, the Chicago Regional in 2005, and the Minneapolis Regional in 2006, but reverted to the traditional geographic designations beginning in 2007. For example, during 2012, the regions were named South (Atlanta, Georgia), East (Boston, Massachusetts), Midwest (St. Louis, Missouri), and West (Phoenix, Arizona). During the 2011 tournament, the South region was called the Southeast region once more, and the Midwest region was called the Southwest region.
Seeding and bracket
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).
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 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.
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.
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 then seated only 10,000 and has since been reduced to a capacity of 9,100, as opposed to the 70,000-plus of Lucas Oil Stadium in its Final Four configuration.)
The tournament consists of several rounds. They are currently named:
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" 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).
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.
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 Sweet 16 by defeating Boise State, Kansas State, and Ole Miss. In 2014, Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16 by defeating Iowa, Massachusetts, and Mercer. The following year, Dayton won its First Four game on their home court and then defeated Providence to advance to the round of 32. Most recently in 2016, Wichita State advanced to the round of 32 by defeating Vanderbilt and Arizona.
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. All of the previous-format single Opening Round games and current-format First Four games, have been played at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
First and Second Rounds
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.
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."
Regional semifinals and finals
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."
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.
Titles by schoolThe 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).
List of schools with the longest time between NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament appearances:
Through the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, four schools that have been Division I members since the distinction between "major college" and "small college" was first officially made, in 1948, have never reached the national tournament.
The NCAA tournament has changed its format many times over the years. Below are listed many of these changes.
Expansion of field
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 nine 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.
Stadium size and domes
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 the Meadowlands Arena, then known as 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.
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,
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.
Under then-current criteria, only nine stadiums, all but one of which are current NFL venues, could be considered as Final Four locations:
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.
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.
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.
Home court advantage
On several occasions 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 1985, Dayton played its first-round game against Villanova (it lost 51-49) on its home floor. In 1986 (beating Brown before losing to Navy) and '87 (beating Georgia Southern and Western Kentucky), Syracuse played the first 2 rounds of the NCAA tournament in the Carrier Dome. Also in 1986, LSU played in Baton Rouge on its home floor for the first 2 rounds despite being an 11th seed (beating Purdue and Memphis State). In 1987, Arizona lost to UTEP on its home floor in the first round. In 2015, Dayton played at its regular home of UD Arena, and the Flyers beat Boise State in the First Four.
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 and 1972 in Los Angeles, 1975 in San Diego), 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 1960, Cal had nearly as large an edge as Louisville had the previous year, 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).
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 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.
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.
The NCAA had 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.
House Bill 2
On September 12, 2016, the NCAA stripped the State of North Carolina of hosting rights for seven upcoming college sports tournaments and championships held by the association, including early round games of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament scheduled for the Greensboro Coliseum. The NCAA argued that House Bill 2 made it "challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver [an inclusive atmosphere]". Bon Secours Wellness Arena was able to secure the bid to be the replacement site.
Cutting down the nets
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.
Just as the Olympics awards gold, silver, and bronze medals for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, respectively, 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. Since 2006, all four Final Four teams 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.
The champions also receive a commemorative gold championship ring, and the other three Final Four teams receive Final Four rings.
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.
Most Outstanding Player
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.
Influence on the NBA draft
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 Four 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.
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."
Current television contracts
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.
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, Brad Nessler, Spero Dedes, and Andrew Catalon appear on Turner network broadcasts along with analysts Len Elmore, Bill Raftery, Dan Bonner, Mike Gminski, and Doug Gottlieb.
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.
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 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:
The Division I Men's Basketball tournament is the only NCAA championship tournament where the NCAA does not keep the profits.
History of television 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.
Early broadcast coverage
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.
In 1982, CBS obtained broadcast television rights to the NCAA tournament.
ESPN & CBS share coverage
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.
CBS takes over
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).
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.
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.
Viewing options emerge
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.
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, the national semifinals and final (regardless of the broadcaster), and three hours (originally four) of other games without sign-in, or coverage via Westwood One's radio coverage.
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.
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.
As of 2011, ESPN International holds international broadcast rights to the tournament, distributing coverage to its co-owned networks and other broadcasters. ESPN produces the world feed for broadcasts of the Final Four and championship game, produced using ESPN College Basketball staff and commentators.
Most successful low seeds
Best outcomes for low seeds since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
Best performances by No. 16 seeds
No team as a No. 16 seed has ever defeated a No. 1 seed since the field was expanded to 64 or more teams, though on five occasions, a No. 16 seed has come within 4 or fewer points of winning:
Additional low-seed stats
Notable point spread upsets
As noted above, despite numerous instances of early-round tournament upsets, no No. 1 seed has ever lost in the first round to a No. 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".Biggest point-spread upsets since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
All No. 1 seeds in the Final Four
It has happened only once that all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four:
Final Fours without a No. 1 seed
Three times (twice since the field expanded to 64 teams) the Final Four has been without a No. 1 seed:
Since 1985, there have been 4 instances of three No. 1 seeds reaching the Final Four; 11 instances of two No. 1 seeds making it; and 14 instances of just one No. 1 seed reaching the Final Four.
No. 1 seeds in the Championship Game
It has happened seven times (six times since the field expanded to 64) that the championship game has been played between two No. 1 seeds:
Since 1985, there have been 17 instances of one No. 1 seed reaching the Championship Game (No. 1 seeds are 13-4 against other seeds in the title game), and eight instances where no No. 1 seed made it to the title game. In total, since 1985, No. 1 seeds are 19-10 in the championship game.
Additional No. 1 seed stats
Teams No. 1 in national polls
The following teams entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in at least one of the AP, UPI, or USA Today polls and won the tournament:
Performance of undefeated teams
The team's record here refers to their record before the first game of the NCAA tournament.
Undefeated teams not in the tournament
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. (As, by definition, a team would have to win its conference tournament, and thus secure an automatic bid to the tournament, to be undefeated in a season, the only way a team could finish undefeated and not reach the tournament is if the team is banned from postseason play; as of 2016, no team banned from postseason play has finished undefeated since 1980.) Before that, there were occasions on which a team achieved perfection in the regular season, yet did not appear in the NCAA tournament.
Champions absent the next year
There have been nine times in which the tournament did not include the reigning champion (the previous year's winner):
Mid Major Teams
Mid major teams, which are, as of 2017, defined as teams from the America East Conference (America East), Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN), Big Sky Conference (Big Sky), Big South Conference (Big South), Big West Conference (Big West), Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), Conference USA (C-USA), Horizon League (Horizon), Ivy League (Ivy), Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Mid-American Conference (MAC), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), Mountain West Conference (MWC), Northeast Conference (NEC), Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), Patriot League (Patriot), Southern Conference (SoCon), Southland Conference (Southland), Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC), Summit League (Summit), Sun Belt Conference (Sun Belt), West Coast Conference (WCC), and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), have experienced periods of success in the tournament. Below is a table that shows the performance of mid major teams from the Sweet Sixteen round to the National Championship Game from 1939, when the tournament first started, to 2017, the most recently ongoing tournament. (Note that the table shows teams' conference affiliation at the time of their tournament appearances.)
Defunct conferences and independents
This table shows mid major teams that saw success in the tournament from now-defunct conferences or were independents.
Most national championships
National championships among active coaches
Coaches in italics are active at levels below NCAA Division I.
Schools winning a national championship under multiple coaches
Most teams from different schools taken to the Final Four
Rick Pitino is the only coach to have officially taken three different teams to the Final Four: Providence (1987), Kentucky (1993, 1996, 1997) and Louisville (2005, 2012, 2013) and the only one to have won the tournament with two different schools (1996 and 2013).
There are 12 coaches who have officially coached two different schools to the Final Four -- Roy Williams, Eddie Sutton, Frank McGuire, Lon Kruger, Hugh Durham, Jack Gardner, Lute Olson, Gene Bartow, Forddy Anderson, Lee Rose, Bob Huggins, and Lou Henson.
Point differentials, or margin of victory, can be viewed either by the championship game, or by a team's performance over the whole tournament.
Championship victory margins
30 points, by UNLV in 1990 (103–73, over Duke)
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.
1 point, on six occasions
Accumulated victory margins
Teams that played 6 games
Teams that played 5 games
Teams that played 4 games
Teams that played 3 games
Achieved twelve times by nine different schools
Seed pairing results
Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, through 2017 each seed-pairing has played 132 games in the Round of 64, with the following results:
Round of 64 results
Round of 32 results
Round of 16 results
This table lists all the cities that have hosted the Final Four, as well as the venues in which the Final Four was played. For additional information about a particular year's tournament, click on the year to go directly to that year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament or go to the main article.
Bracketology and pools
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. Former President Barack Obama's bracket, is posted on the White House website.
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 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 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. No one was able to complete the challenge and win the $1 billion prize.
Tournament associated terms
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.
March Madness is a popular on-ending basketball tournaments played in March. March Madness is also a registered trademark currently owned exclusively by the NCAA.
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, he 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.
Fans began associating the term with the NCAA tournament during the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who had worked for many years in Chicago before joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts. The NCAA has credited Bob Walsh of the Seattle Organizing Committee for starting the March Madness celebration in 1984.
Only during the 1990s did either the IHSA or the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.