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NCAAB Championship: All You Need To Know Ahead of the Mayhem

The most thrilling month of the college basketball season has arrived. With the bracket reveal just around the corner, we take you through all you need to know about the NCAAB Championship.

On Sunday, March 12, millions of sports fans across the United States will gather around their TVs and computers, eagerly waiting for 6 PM ET. 

That’s when the 68-team brackets, including seeding, matchups, and locations for both the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments will be revealed on a live TV broadcast. 

This final Sunday before the tournament begins, dubbed ‘Selection Sunday,’ is a precursor for what many consider the most riveting spectacle in American sports. 

What2023 NCAAB Championship
WhenWednesday, March 15 to Monday, April 3, 2023
How to watchMen's tournament - Kayo Sports, Foxtel & ESPN Networks

What is the tournament format?

The tournament is a 68-team, single-elimination tournament that runs from the third weekend in March until the first Monday in April. 

Each of the 68 teams is seeded between 1 and 16 across four regions – East, West, Midwest, and South – with the intention of creating even and fair matchups throughout the duration of the tournament.

The following first-round seeding matchups will take place in all four regions: 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, 4 vs. 13, 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, and 8 vs. 9.

Eight of the 68 teams selected for the tournament field compete in the ‘First Four,’ a play-in round added to the tournament format in 2011. 

The teams that play in this round are lower-seeded – typically a 16- or 11-seed - ‘bubble’ teams whose resumes didn’t warrant an automatic bid into the field of 64. The winners of these First Four matchups go on to play higher seeds in the first round.

Once the final 64 teams are determined, 32 first-round games take place across two days, cutting the field down to 32 teams. During these two days, there are, at times, four games going on at once. 

The winners of their first round matchups play each other in the second round of the tournament in accordance with the bracket. If all higher seeds win, the second round matchups will be: 1 vs. 8, 4 vs. 5, 3 vs. 6, and 2 vs. 7. The purpose of the four-region format is to make it so the highest seeds can only face each other in the tournament’s later rounds.

Beyond the second round are the ‘named’ rounds – the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and National Championship. Depending on the size and reputation of the school, reaching any of these rounds is considered a historic achievement. 

What is the tournament schedule?

The term ‘March Mayhem’ is appropriate when talking about this tournament. There is constant action and excitement that keeps everyone involved on the edges of their seats.

After the First Four commences on March 14-15, the first round of the tournament gets underway just after noon ET on Thursday, March 16. 

Over the next 12-plus hours, 16 games are played, 16 teams advance to the round of 32, and 16 others are sent home packing. There are three to four games going on at the same time for most of the day.

On Friday, March 17, another 16 first-round games are played, this time in the other two regions, to fill out the round of 32. 

What happens after two 12-hour days of college basketball in which 32 games were played? Another two days of almost the exact same. 

On March 18-19, the round of 32 games will be played. Fans typically note the same level of mayhem as the previous two days isn’t there, as eight games – rather than 16 – are played each day. However, the games include teams that triumphed in the first round, so ideally this round gives fans higher-level and more balanced matchups. 

There is then a four-day hiatus before the Sweet Sixteen tips off on the following Thursday, March 23. That marks the first of another four-day stretch of action, as the tournament is narrowed down to the Final Four by the end of the weekend. 

The four teams remaining will travel to Houston and Dallas – the site of this year’s men’s and women’s Final Four rounds – to duke it out for a spot in the National Championship. 

The men’s title game takes place on Monday, April 3, while the women’s game is on Sunday, March 2. 

Why is the tournament so popular?

One might ask, if you don’t watch or follow college basketball, why would you care about March Madness?

As any successful promotion or event, there is a way for everyone, even if they’ve never watched a second of college basketball in their lives, to get involved.

The main way this happens each year is by filling out a bracket. 

When the 68-team field is revealed, it is commonplace to immediately fill one out with your predictions for how the tournament will pan out.

The beauty of filling out a bracket is, the tournament is so unpredictable that even the sport’s most dedicated analysts and experts usually come nowhere near a ‘perfect bracket.’ Filling out the bracket with no knowledge of any of the teams or players can lead to a better result than if you watched the games all season.

It is common for friends, family members, co-workers and more to compete against each other each March to see who’s predictions end up closest to what actually happens. 

Which teams might win the tournament?

While any of the schools that make the 68-team field can technically win the tournament, there are clear historical indicators that lead to success in March. 

The most glaring shared characteristic among past winners is their tournament seed.

Since the men’s tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 24 of 37 schools to win it all – 65 percent – have been a one-seed. In total, 33 of 37 schools to triumph were a three-seed or better. 

Only four four-seeds or worse have ever gone all the way in March - #7 Connecticut (2014), #4 Arizona (1997), #6 Kansas (1988), and #8 Villanova (1985). 

High-seed dominance is even more prevalent in the women’s tournament. In 40 years since the it first debuted, only nine teams that weren’t a one-seed have won the tournament. All nine of those champions were seeded between two and four.

Not just any one-seed has dominated the women’s game for the past four decades, though. Connecticut has the most national championships (11) of any women’s program, all of which have come since 1995 under head coach Geno Auriemma. They were a one-seed in 10 of those 11 March triumphs.

Tennessee is the other hugely successful women’s program, winning eight titles between 1987 and 2008 under legendary head coach Pat Summitt. The Lady Vols were a one-, two-, or three-seed in all eight championship runs.

In the men’s game, no team has dominated the tournament like UConn or Tennessee has for the women. Since 1985, Duke (five titles), Connecticut (four) and North Carolina (four) are the winningest programs.

Having a coach that is March-tested, such as UConn’s Auriemma, UT’s Summitt, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, or UNC’s Roy Williams, is massively important in the tournament. Krzyzewski, Williams, or famed UConn men’s coach Jim Calhoun have coached eight of this century’s 22 national champions.

Pair that tournament coaching experience with confident, tournament-tested players, and you have a formula for success in March.

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