How Many Teams Did the NCAA Tournament Originally Feature?

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(AP Photo/Horace Cort)
BetMGM @BETMGM Mar 29, 2023, 9:54 AM

The first men’s basketball NCAA Tournament featured just eight teams. It was held in 1939, with the championship game played on campus at Northwestern University.

The championship game was played on March 27, 1939, between Ohio State and Oregon. 

Though it was Ohio State coach Harold Olsen who originally had the idea for a national basketball tournament, it was ultimately Oregon that won the championship game, 46-33.

The other six teams involved were Villanova, Oklahoma, Utah State, Texas, Wake Forest, and Brown.

The NCAA doubled the size of the field to 16 teams in 1951. It was expanded again several times, ultimately transforming into the modern NCAA Tournament with a 64-team bracket in 1985.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.