NEED TO KNOW
• “First Four” comprised of four first-round games to tip off the Road to Houston, to be broadcast nationally on Turner’s truTV as part of the new NCAA-Turner/CBS broadcast agreement.
• Two first-round games to feature showdowns between teams playing for two of the No. 16 seeds.
• Two first-round games to feature the last four of the 37 at-large teams selected to the tournament.
• First time in tournament history that the last at-large team will be revealed.

NCAA.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship will tip off with four first-round games -- the "First Four" -- all broadcast nationally in primetime on Turner Broadcasting’s truTV. The four games will highlight the start of the Road to Houston as part of NCAA’s new 14-year partnership with Turner Broadcasting and CBS Sports.

The expansion to eight teams will constitute the first round of the championship, with the second- and third-rounds played to round out of the first week of play. Two of the first-round games will feature the last four at-large teams selected to the championship field, while the other two games will match teams ranked 65 through 68 on the overall seed list. The winners of the four games will advance to the second round.

In April 2010, the committee was charged by the Division I Board of Directors to determine the new 68-team format for the championship. Since that time, the committee actively solicited input from the NCAA membership. During its annual meeting, the committee reviewed and analyzed options, considering the benefits of each.

When the Mountain West Conference was created in 1999, NCAA membership chose to add a 65th team to the tournament, creating a single opening-round game starting in 2001. Going to 68 teams in 2011 allows for all four regions of the championship to be balanced in size, with 31 conference automatic qualifiers and 37 at-large selections – four more than the traditional 64-team configuration.

“With the new bracket essentially featuring four additional at-large teams, the committee determined it was appropriate to have the teams play in the first round,” said Dan Guerrero, the director of athletics at UCLA and chair of the committee for the 2009-10 academic year. “We believe this format provides an extraordinary opportunity for the championship’s first-round games to be quality match-ups as March Madness begins.”

The two at-large pairings will both occupy the seed line where they would normally be placed in the bracket. The pairings could occupy different lines in the bracket. For example, one game may be played between two No. 10 seeds, while the other could feature a pair of No. 12 seeds. Winners of those games would advance to play their natural opponent on a 64-team bracket; the No. 10 seed would play a seventh-seeded team and a 12th-seeded team would meet a No. 5 seed. In accordance with the bracketing procedures, teams will continue to be assigned to the closest available geographic location while avoiding regular-season rematches and conference opponents. This marks the first time in tournament history that the last four at-large teams will be publicly revealed.

The winners of the two first-round games involving teams seeded 65 through 68 will advance to second-round play against number one-seeded teams.

The 2010 Selection, Seeding and Bracketing Principles and Procedures are available here.

“We will examine all options moving forward, and that includes playing the first-round games at one site on one date, at multiple sites on multiple dates, or any combination therein,” Guerrero said.

“With all 67 games being broadcast nationally live across the Turner and CBS networks and a variety of other platforms, this is an exciting time for the growth of the championship,” Guerrero added. “From the First Four to the Final Four, the tournament has a history of successful expansion and format evolution, and we’re excited about what will be the latest transformation of one of the world’s great sporting events.”

All 68 teams earn full units from the NCAA Basketball distribution fund based upon participation and wins leading to the Final Four. For more details on the NCAA’s Revenue Distribution Plan, go to www.ncaa.org.

Second- and third-round sites for the 2011 championship will be played March 17-20 in Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Tampa, Tucson, Tulsa and Washington D.C. Regionals will take place March 24-27 in Anaheim, Newark, New Orleans and San Antonio, while the 73rd Final Four will be held in Houston April 2 and 4.

In 1980, the NCAA expanded the field from 40 to 48, with an equal split of automatic and at-large bids. One year later, it became NCAA policy that no more than 50 percent of tournament berths be filled by automatic qualifiers.

In 1983, the number of conferences eligible for automatic entry passed the 50 percent mark, so the conference champions of the eight lowest-rated conferences had to play in opening-round games that determined the No. 12 seeds in the 48-team field. The next year, the championship featured five opening-round games, with one winner slotting in at a No. 11 seed and the other four occupying the No. 12 seeds. The championship field expanded to 64 in 1985, eliminating the need for opening round games until the 65th team was added in 2001.

Related:
Ticket Information and Complete Schedule
March Madness On Demand: Watch live online