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Everything you need to know about Selection Sunday

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March 13th, 2021

It’s almost time to announce the bracket for the 2021 NCAA Tournament! Selection Sunday is set for March 14, and it’s where we’ll find out which teams are playing in March Madness and what the road to the Final Four will truly look like.

Curious about the process and what Selection Sunday truly entails? We’ve compiled a list of frequently-asked questions and answers!

What is Selection Sunday?

The NCAA Tournament field is announced on a Sunday in mid-March. This features a nationally-broadcast television special shown on CBS, where the teams and first-round matchups are unveiled to the public for the first time. 

The format brings with it some quirks, including a backfire in 2016 when the bracket was leaked during a lengthened Selection Sunday show that drew widespread criticism.

How do teams make the NCAA Tournament?

The winners of all Division I conference tournaments earn spots in the field of 68. The remaining at-large berths are chosen by a 10-person NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, which begins its discussions in November and holds a February meeting to run a mock selection process a month before the bracket is officially constructed.

How are at-large teams selected?

According to the NCAA, the at-large teams represent the 36 best squads that were not automatic qualifiers. The committee attempts to achieve “reasonable competitive balance,” and committee members with ties to certain schools must leave the room when those programs are being discussed.

How did they decide on the number of teams?

The NCAA Tournament has expanded over time. It started as an eight-team tournament in 1939 before expanding to 16 teams in 1951. It grew again to 32 teams in 1975, and expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

In 2001, the opening-round game, sometimes called the “play-in game,” was introduced, which added a berth for another potential 16-seed. Ten years later, the tournament added three more games to comprise the “First Four.” These games feature the four lowest-ranked conference champions (16-seeds) and the four lowest-ranked at-large teams (11-seeds).

Is the committee ever wrong?

Every year, in some form or fashion, because these brackets seldom “chalk out.” In fact, VCU went from the inaugural First Four to the Final Four in 2011 as an 11-seed.

These upsets are some of the most fun parts of every NCAA Tournament, especially if you have them in your bracket

When does this year’s tournament start?

The First Four games will be played on Thursday, March 18, and first round games are set for Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20. The tournament ends with the Final Four in early April, and all games will be played at various locations in the state of Indiana in 2021.

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