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:

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

This means that if a team is the 1 seed in their respective region, they will play the 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 1 seed vs. 16 seed games tend to be blowouts. Only once has a 16 seed beaten a 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 8. The Elite 8 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 8 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 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 an 11 seed. Only a few 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.

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.4

When is Each Round Played?

Selection Sunday is the first event of the tournament, which typically begins in mid-March. Two days later, the First Four begins. First Four Games are typically played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Thursday kicks off the Round of 64, which many cite as the true start of the tournament. This first round lasts for two days, and there is constant action. The second round, known as the Round of 32, occurs on Saturday and Sunday.

After the first two rounds are complete, the players are given a rest. The tournament resumes the following Thursday, 11 days after Selection Sunday. The third and fourth rounds are played out between Thursday and Sunday, before the tournament goes on another break before the Final Four.5

The Final Four and the National Championship typically take place about three weeks after Selection Sunday, concluding the tournament. The National Championship is the last game in the college basketball season.5