How Are March Madness Teams Selected?

How Are March Madness Teams Selected

For just about any collegiate basketball fan, March Madness is undoubtedly the most highly anticipated event of the year. Just like any other major sporting event, however, March Madness inevitably comes with its own complicated rules, sometimes making it difficult for new fans to fully appreciate the games. The team selection process is a highly standardized and detailed procedure that reflects its critical role in setting the overall tournament in motion. Read on to find out all about how teams are selected for March Madness each year.

March Madness Selection Process

The March Madness selection process is a procedure in which the Selection Committee votes to choose the teams for the NCAA Tournament. The ten-member committee seeds at-large teams alongside conference winners, ranking them on performance.

Who Selects the Teams for March Madness?

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Committee and the NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Committee select the teams for March Madness. Both committees consist of ten regional sports administrators and are responsible for selecting, seeding, and bracketing the field for their respective tournaments. The committee members are made up of Division I athletic directors and conference administrators, who have been nominated and chosen to reflect a fair representation of all 32 Division I basketball conferences in the US.

How Are the Teams for March Madness Selected?

Of the 68 total teams that make up the field of the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, the committee only really selects 36 teams. This is because 32 teams are able to secure automatic bids by winning their respective conference tournaments, which are held at the end of the regular season. These 32 conference-winning teams are referred to as holding automatic bids, while the spots for the remaining 36 March Madness teams are called at-large bids and are selected by the Selection Committee.

The selection process officially begins on the Tuesday before Selection Sunday and lasts for five consecutive days until the voting is finalized and the final bracket of 68 is broadcast on Selection Sunday.

How Are the 36 At-Large Teams Selected?

In order to pick the most deserving and qualified teams for the 36 at-large bids, each of the ten committee members first objectively reviews and evaluates an extensive amount of consultation, observation, and data from the regular season. This often includes computer metrics, NABC regional advisory rankings, and the qualities of wins and losses. After hours of debate and deliberation, the committee holds a vote by secret ballot, and the 36 teams with the highest number of votes are awarded the at-large bids.

What Is Seeding the Field?

Each of 68 teams selected must be placed, or seeded, into one of the four geographical regions of the NCAA tournament field: South, East, West, and Midwest. Each region hosts between 16 and 18 teams.

In a process called seeding, the committee first ranks each participating team, in descending order from 1 to 68, according to its relative strength and competitiveness. For example, the most powerful team in the field will be ranked as 1, while the weakest will be ranked as 68. The qualitative assessment of each of the 68 teams is determined by the committee using the data available to them. These national rankings are sometimes referred to as true seeds.

What Are Seed Lines?

Seed Lines are a way of grouping March Madness teams by national rankings to ensure a fair power balance across the tournament. There are 16 seed lines in total, with the first 15 lines consisting of four teams each, and the final 16th line containing six teams. The top four strongest teams (those who have been nationally ranked as 1, 2, 3, and 4) are placed into seed line #1 and are referred to as number 1 seeds, regardless of their individual national rankings.

The next four strongest teams (those who have been nationally ranked as 5, 6, 7, and 8) are then placed into seed line #2 and are referred to as number 2 seeds. This continues all the way down to the number 16 seeds, the teams who have been nationally ranked at 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, and 68.

After the 16 seed lines have been established, the committee separates the teams from each seed line into four regions so that each region will have one team from every seed line. For instance, all regions will only ever have one number 1 seed, one number 2 seed, one number 3 seed, and so forth. This seed list thus helps create a power balance across the field by ensuring that the four regions are all equally strong.

How Does the Committee Decide Where the Teams Play?

In a process called bracketing the field, teams within each of the four regions of the tournament are further separated into pods. Each region contains four pods, and each pod contains four teams. The first pod will include seeds 1, 16, 8, and 9. The second pod will include seeds 4, 13, 5, and 12. The third pod will include seeds 2, 15, 7, and 10. The fourth pod will include seeds 3, 14, 6, and 11.

Every region also has eight distinct locations, each of which will host one of the total eight regional games. The committee then assigns two locations for each pod, one site for the First Round and another for the Second Round. At last, once the committee has separated all the teams into their pods and assigned each pod to two distinct regional locations, Selection Sunday will officially be underway.


What is the March Madness selection process?

The March Madness selection process consists of the Selection Committee voting to select and seed 32 at-large teams alongside 36 automatic bids into the tournament bracket. The teams with automatic bids earn them by winning their conference. The at-large bids are awarded based on the performance of the strongest remaining teams. All teams are seeded based on the committee’s votes.