At the end of each regular season, college basketball conferences around the country hold their year-end tournaments. After the play of these conference tournaments, the NCAA Selection Committee puts together its field of 68 teams that will play for the national championship. There are 31 teams that earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. These are the winners of each conference’s year-end tournament. The Ivy League is the only conference that does not play a postseason tournament. Its regular season winner (this year it’s Yale) earns an automatic bid to the field of 68. The remaining teams, 36 total, are selected at-large by the committee based upon things like their overall season record, strength of schedule, and a variety of other factors.
When you fill out your bracket, you will attempt to pick the winner of each individual game from the First Four to the Final Four and eventually, the national champion. The First Four refers to the last four teams picked by the committee. These four teams will play two games and the winners will then enter the field of 64, which begins play on Thursday, March 17.
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The bracket will consist of four regions, each region with 16 teams after the play-in games. The committee determines the seeding for each team, including the winners of the play-in games. In year’s past, play-in winners are normally an 11 seed or lower. When the first round of play begins, the No. 1 seed in each region plays the No. 16 seed. The No. 2 seed plays No. 15 and so on. Teams seeded higher are considered more likely to win, however, as history has shown there are often upsets where a lower seeded team ends up victorious.
March Madness Brackets & Predictions
Consider These Trends When Betting
• No No. 1 seed has ever lost a first round game…ever.
• Only seven No. 15 seeds have ever won a first round game. In the 2014 tournament, Florida Gulf Coast actually won two games to reach the Sweet 16.
• Almost every year since the tournament expanded to 64 teams back in 1985, a No. 12 seed has won a first round game. Since the expansion, there have been 44 wins by a No. 12 seed. None won last year, but at least one 12 seed won in the six previous tournaments.
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• The lowest seeded team to ever win a national championship was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. Seventh-seeded Connecticut won it all in 2014.
• A No. 1 seed is the most likely to win a national championship. Six of the past eight champions were No. 1 seeds.
• When considering Final Four teams, the lowest seed to ever make it was a No. 11. It has been done three times. Most recently, Virginia Commonwealth played in the 2011 Final Four.
Keep in mind that the top four seeds in each region have the best chances of winning their first two games. Even so, there will be upsets. The hardest games to choose are usually the No. 8 versus No. 9 game, but rarely does the winner of that game win its second contest. There are exceptions as last year No. 8 seed Wichita State wound up in the Final Four.
More often than not, the Elite Eight will feature at least two No. 1 seeds and the Final Four is normally made up of teams seeded No. 1 through No. 4. It’s hard to predict what may happen, but whatever you do, have fun doing so!