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How does the NCAA March Madness Tournament Work?

Selection of Teams

The NCAA Tournament is made up of 68 teams. The first 32 teams in the tournament are the 32 Conference Championship winners. The remaining 36 teams are chosen by the selection committee in what are called "at-large" bids. The 10 member committee uses various factors, such as record and strength of schedule to choose and seed the final 36 teams.

The Bracket and Seeds

The NCAA Tournament is a single elimination, knockout style tournament, meaning if you lose you're out, if you win you move on. The bracket is broken up into the following 4 regions: South, West, East and Midwest. Each region has 16 teams that are seeded 1 through 16. The 1 seed is considered the best team in the region, while the 16 seed is the worst. The committee has a very in depth system in place to ensure the seeds are well balanced in each region. The first round seeded matchup are as follows:

1 vs 16

8 vs 9

5 vs 12

4 vs 13

6 vs 11

3 vs 14

7 vs 10

2 vs 15

The bracket is made up of 6 rounds(7 if you include the play-in games):

Round of 64

Round of 32

Sweet 16

Elite 8

Final 4

Championship Game

Total Number of Games in the NCAA March Madness Tournament

Number of Games

From the round of 64 through the championship game, there are a total of 63 games. If you include the "first four", also known as the "play-in" games, there are a total of 67 games. Assuming the two teams playing in the championship game were not part of the first four, they would play a total of 6 games. We have wrote an in depth article on the Seeding of the Play-In Games.

Days of Games

The tournament takes place over the course of 3 1/2 weeks in late March and the first week of April. The first four games are played on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the actual first round games being played on Thursday and Friday. There are 32 games each of the first 2 days. The tournament continues with the second round on Saturday and Sunday, with the Thursday winners playing on Saturday and the Friday winners playing on Sunday. After a 3 day break in action, the sweet 16 will be played on the following Thursday and Friday, followed by the elite 8 on Saturday and Sunday. The Final Four will take place on the following Saturday, with the Championship game being played two days later on Monday.