What Are The Rounds of March Madness Called?

march madness

There are six official rounds of March Madness and a four-team play-in to begin the tournament. The names of each round can be seen below:

Round #Name of Round
Play-InFirst Four
1Round of 64
2Round of 32
3Sweet 16
4Elite Eight
5Final Four
6National Championship

First Four

The first four is a group of eight teams that consists of the four lowest-seeded conference champions and the four lowest-seeded at-large bids. They each play a single play-in game, with the winners of these four games making up the last four spots in the Round of 64. The teams that win in the First Four are ranked as either an 11 or 16 seed for the Round of 64.

Round of 64

march madness round of 64

The round of 64 is the first round of the March Madness tournament. There are 64 teams in the tournament, and all 64 teams play in the first round. There are 32 matchups in the first round. Since the field is divided into four regions, there are 16 teams in each region during the Round of 64. The round of 64 is the only round where the seeds of the teams playing are guaranteed:

  • Seed 1 vs. Seed 16
  • Seed 2 vs. Seed 15
  • Seed 3 vs. Seed 14
  • Seed 4 vs. Seed 13
  • Seed 5 vs. Seed 12
  • Seed 6 vs. Seed 11
  • Seed 7 vs. Seed 10
  • Seed 8 vs. Seed 9

This means that if a team is the Number 1 seed in their respective region, they will play the Number 16 seed from the same region. Seeds are assigned to teams on Selection Sunday. 

The Round of 64 takes place on the first and second day of March Madness. The Round of 64 often has the least competitive games, as the Number 1 seed vs. Number 16 seed games tend to be blowouts. Only once has a Number 16 seed beaten a Number 1 seed. This happened on March 16, 2018, when the UMBC Retrievers upset the Virginia Cavaliers.

Round of 32

 march madness round of 32

The second round of March Madness is known as the Round of 32. There are 16 games played in the second round, and 32 teams. In each of the four regions, there are four games played between eight teams. The Round of 32 takes place on the third and fourth day of March Madness.

Sweet 16

The third round of the March Madness tournament is called the Sweet 16. Many teams dream of making the Sweet 16, and for good reason. The Sweet 16 is a highly competitive round that produces two teams in each region to eventually face-off in the Elite 8.

There is a five-day break between the Round of 32 and the Sweet 16, resulting in a lot of anticipation for the Sweet 16.

Elite Eight

The fourth round of March Madness is referred to as the Elite Eight. The Elite Eight is also known as the regional championship. During this stage of the tournament, there are four games played, one in each of the regions (North, East, West, and South) of the tournament. The winners of the Elite Eight games are crowned regional champions and advance to the Final Four.

Final Four

The fifth round of March Madness is known as the Final Four. By this point in the tournament, each remaining team has a legitimate chance to win the highly coveted National Championship.

Of the four Number 1-seeded teams that began in the tournament, typically one or two will advance to the Final Four. A lower-seeded team often makes a run to the Final Four. The most recent such case was UCLA in 2021, who reached the Final Four as a Number 11 seed. Only four squads get the honor of participating in the Final Four each year, and only two are lucky enough to advance to the National Championship.

National Championship

The sixth and final round of the March Madness bracket is the National Championship. This round consists of only one game, for all the marbles. Both teams competing in the National Championship have survived five grueling rounds of elimination basketball. The National Championship is typically the most-watched college basketball game of the year. The 2015 Duke vs. Wisconsin National Championship stands as the highest-rated college basketball game ever: Turner Sports recorded over 28 million viewers for that game.

FAQ

How many rounds are there in March Madness?

There are six rounds of March Madness, not including one play-in round that occurs before the Round of 64. A team has to win six consecutive games (or seven if they are in the play-in round) to win the March Madness Tournament, outlasting 63 other teams.

What is the play-in round?

The play-in round, also known as the First Four, is a round of basketball that takes place before the Round of 64. The teams competing in the First Four are made up of the teams receiving the four lowest at-large bids and the teams receiving the four lowest automatic bids. The winners of the play-in games receive either a number 11 or a number 16 seed in the tournament, depending on their ranking.

How many games are in March Madness?

Throughout March Madness, including the First Four, there are 67 games. Without including the First Four, there are 63 games played in the main six rounds of the tournament. There are 68 total teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which is single elimination.