Everything You Need To Know About March Madness

NCAA Tournament Odds Betting

Eight teams played in the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939. Eight games, including the third-place game, were played over 11 days at three different venues in three different states as the Oregon Webfoots won the national championship. A year later, eight games were played in two different states, as they were from 1941-49 before a return to three states in 1950, the final year of an eight-team field before doubling to 16 teams in 1951.

As the NCAA Tournament expanded–10 times from 1951-2011–more states hosted more games each year as it became a coast-to-coast 68-team tournament. That won’t be the case in 2021; one state will host every game for the first time ever.

One year after COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the 2021 tournament will be played at six different venues in Indiana: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis), Mackey Arena (West Lafayette), and Assembly Hall (Bloomington). 

Here’s everything you need to know about March Madness:

Conference Tournaments

Thirty-one conference tournaments begin on Thursday, February 25, and end on Sunday, March 14. Only four of the tournaments are scheduled to be played at campus sites–America East, Big South, Northeast, and Patriot–while the other 27 will be played in 19 different cities across all four continental time zones. Las Vegas will host the most tourneys (four), followed by Indianapolis (two) and Washington, D.C. (two).

The Big South will be the first conference to award their auto bid; the conference championship is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 7. Two hours later, the Atlantic Sun and Missouri Valley will award their bids. 

ConferenceLocationDates
AACFort WorthMarch 11-14
ACCWashington, DCMarch 9-13
America EastCampus SitesTBD
Atlantic 10BrooklynMarch 3-6
Atlantic SunJacksonvilleMarch 3-7
Big EastNew YorkMarch 10-13
Big SkyBoiseMarch 10-13
Big SouthCampus SitesMarch 2, 4-5, & 7
Big TenIndianapolisMarch 10-14
Big 12Kansas CityMarch 10-13
Big WestAnaheimMarch 9, 11-13
ColonialWashington DCMarch 6-9
C-USAFrisco, TexasMarch 10-13
HorizonIndianapolisFeb. 25, March 2, 8-9
MAACAtlantic CityMarch 9-13
MACClevelandMarch 11-13
MEACNorfolkMarch 10-13
Missouri ValleySt. LouisMarch 4-7
Mountain WestLas VegasMarch 10-13
NortheastCampus SitesMarch 6 & 9
Ohio ValleyEvansvilleMarch 3-6
Pac-12Las VegasMarch 10-13
PatriotCampus SitesMarch 6, 10 & 14
SECNashvilleMarch 10-14
SouthernAshevilleMarch 5-8
SouthlandKaty, TexasMarch 10-13
SummitSioux FallsMarch 6-9
Sun BeltPensacolaMarch 5-8
SWACBirminghamMarch 9, 12-13
WACLas VegasMarch 10-13
West CoastLas VegasMarch 4-6 & 8-9

Ivy League

Of the 13 teams that opted out of the season, eight are in the Ivy League, which canceled all winter sports. Without an Ivy League auto-bid, there will be an extra at-large team in the 2021 field.

Yale Basketball NCAA Tournament
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

In a typical year, there are 32 auto-bids for conference champions and 36 at-large bids for the other 300-plus teams in college basketball. Without the Ivy League champion occupying one of the 68 spots, there will be 37 at-large teams for the first time ever.

Selection Sunday

Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 14 with CBS coverage beginning at 6 p.m. ET, minutes after the completion of the Big Ten Championship (scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET) and American Championship (3:15 p.m. ET). 

CBS Sports was widely criticized for an alphabetical release of teams in 2018 before reverting back to the typical region-by-region format in 2019, the most recent show after last year’s cancellation.

“We’re going back to basics,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in March 2019. “Focus on getting those brackets out as fast as we can.”

Schedule

For the first time in the current format, all First Four games will be played on one day, and the First Round won’t begin until Friday:

First Four

Date: Thursday, March 18
Start Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena

First Round

Dates: Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20
Start Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Assembly Hall, Mackey Arena, Bankers Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Indiana Farmers Coliseum

Second Round

Dates: Sunday, March 21, and Monday, March 22
Start Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Bankers Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Indiana Farmers Coliseum

Sweet 16

Dates: Saturday, March 27, and Sunday, March 28
Start Times: 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, and 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse

Elite Eight

Dates: Monday, March 29, and Tuesday, March 30
Start Times: 7 p.m. ET on Monday, and 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse

Final Four

Dates: Saturday, April 3
Start Time: 5 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium

National Championship

Date: Monday, April 5
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium

How to Watch

In April 2010, the NCAA agreed to a 14-year, $10.8-billion media deal with CBS Sports and Turner Sports that runs from 2011-24. Six years later, the parties agreed to an eight-year extension worth $8.8 billion from 2025-32. 

All those zeros mean you’ll keep watching the NCAA Tournament on four channels–CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV–through a cable provider, streaming service, or March Madness Live.

Fans

Approximately 15,000 total fans attended the eight NCAA Tournament games in 1939. Nearly 700,000 fans attended the 67 NCAA Tournament games in 2019. Attendance in 2021 will be closer to the 1939 numbers than the 2019 numbers. 

The NCAA will allow up to 25 percent of capacity at each of the six venues, as announced last week, and require physical distancing and face coverings.

“The number one priority for decisions around the tournament continues to be the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline. “We have been in regular conversations with the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group and local health officials to make sure we have the right protocols in place to provide a safe environment. Additionally, IU Health is providing critical testing and monitoring services enabling us to safely conduct the tournament.”

Streaks and Droughts

Prior to the cancellation of the 2021 tournament, Kansas was the clear-cut No. 1 overall seed. And even with a one-and-done Big 12 Tournament appearance, the Jayhawks would’ve been a 1-seed for the fourth time in the last five years and extended their overall appearance streak to 31 years. While Kansas won’t earn another 1-seed in 2021, they will hit 31 years on Selection Sunday.

At 30 years, Kansas holds the all-time record for most consecutive tourney appearances. North Carolina (1975-2001) ranks second, followed by three active streaks: Duke (1996-present), Michigan State (1998-present), and Gonzaga (1999-present). Duke and Michigan are in trouble. Neither team is in the latest Bracketology projections, and barring a conference tournament run, the Blue Devils and/or Spartans could miss the tourney for the first time in 25 and 23 years, respectively.

Tom Izzo Michigan State NCAA Tournament Streak
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

The longest NCAA Tournament drought belongs to Dartmouth. And with the Ivy League sidelined this season, the Big Green won’t make their first appearance since 1959, nor will any of the seven teams behind them, including Tennessee Tech (1963) and Rice (1970). Toledo, however, has a great chance for their first bid since 1980. The Rockets are 18-6 overall entering the weekend, sit atop the MAC standings, and are a 13-seed in Bracketology.

Last Year’s Contenders

Kansas lost a chance at their first national championship since 2008. Who else was burned by last year’s cancellation?

Dayton had their best team ever and, as a 1-seed contender, would’ve earned their first-ever top-three seed. The Flyers nearly beat Kansas in Maui and entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament on a 20-game winning streak. Baylor, Creighton, and San Diego State were also chasing program-record seeds.

Baylor, carrying several Quadrant 1 wins, is back as a projected 1-seed this year, as is Gonzaga, but the others have tumbled. Dayton will likely miss the tournament entirely, while Creighton, Kansas, and San Diego State have fallen to lower seeds. Same for Kentucky, Duke, Maryland, Michigan State, all of whom were projected as top-three seeds, and others like Butler, Louisville, Penn State, and Seton Hall. 

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM

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