What is March Madness?

March Madness in basketball is a term used to describe the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Basketball Tournament, which is held every year throughout mid-March and early April. It is the playoffs for NCAA Men's Division 1 College Basketball, and is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events in the world. The tournament features 68 teams from across the country, all competing to win the National Championship and be crowned the best team in college basketball.


As previously mentioned, March Madness features 68 teams yearly. 32 teams in the field are automatically invited based on their postseason success in their respective conferences. In addition to the 32 teams entered in the tournament by default, 36 teams are chosen by the selection committee that meets the Sunday before the tournament begins. Once the field is set, a single elimination tournament begins with a round including eight teams playing for four spots. The four winners are included in the bracket and the main tournament begins with 64 teams. In each round the teams in play are reduced by half, with the winners moving on to the next round.

The names of these rounds from start to finish are as follows:


The first March Madness tournament was held in 1939, and featured eight teams. The field expanded to 16 teams in 1951, and reached a 64-team format by 1985. In 2001, the field was bumped to 65 with one play-in game in response to the addition of the Mountain West Conference. Three more teams were added to make 68 in 2011, resulting in four play-in or "first four" games. Thirty six different schools have won a March Madness tournament (also known as the National Championship). UCLA has earned the most championships with eleven, while other notable schools include Duke University with five, North Carolina with six, Kentucky with eight, and Villanova with three. Virginia earned the most recent March Madness title in 2019, defeating Texas Tech.