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Wayne Cavadi | | January 21, 2020

How the NCAA DII men’s basketball tournament works: History, important dates, and FAQs

Northwest Missouri State claims the 2019 DII Men's Basketball Championship

The road to the DII Men’s Elite Eight is a five-month journey that culminates with the DII men’s basketball championship tournament. Sixty-four teams begin the battle every March, but only one comes out the victor.

Let’s take a look at how the DII men’s basketball tournament works. 

2019 RECAP: Northwest Missouri State's undefeated season one of many highlights at DII Elite Eight

When did the DII men’s basketball tournament begin?

You can date the tournament back to 1957 when it was the NCAA College Division Basketball Championship. Wheaton (Ill) finished off its 28-1 season by defeating Kentucky Wesleyan 89-65 in Evansville, Indiana for the first national championship. It would remain that way — and in Evansville — until 1974, when Morgan State defeated Missouri State 67-52 in what is considered the first official Division II basketball championship. By 1982, NCAA DII was rolling with both men's and women's sports, and with the DII women’s basketball tournament joining into the mix, the tournament was coined the DII men’s basketball championship. The 2020 season will end crowning the 64th national champion.

How do teams get into the DII men’s basketball tournament?

Like March Madness on the Division I level, there are 64 teams that enter the DII men’s basketball tournament. Of those 64 teams, 23 enter the bracket as automatic qualifiers from winning their respective conference tournaments. Those 23 conferences are split up into eight regions. It looks like this:

Atlantic CIAA, MEC, PSAC (Independent — 2)*
East CACC, ECC, NE10
Midwest GLIAC, GLVC, G-MAC, (Independent — 1)*
South GSC, SIAC, SSC (Independent — 3)*
South Central LSC, RMAC
Southeast CC, PBC, SAC
West CCAA, GNAC, PacWest

(* = Independents do not receive automatic bids)

So, where do the other 41 teams come from? You could say the process begins three weeks before the season ends. This is when the NCAA releases its first regional rankings. Those rankings, released every Wednesday over the final three weeks of the season, give us an idea of the top eight teams in each region. 

FINAL 2019 RANKINGS: Regional | NABC

Once the conference tournaments are complete and the 23 automatic bids are resolved, the DII men’s basketball selection committee goes to work. What are the criteria they are looking for?

It starts with the won-lost record in Division II which needs to be .500 or better while having competed against at least 22 DII men's basketball programs. If the program qualifies, next the committee looks at the following.

  • In-region winning percentage
  • DII winning percentage
  • Strength of schedule against DII programs
  • Head-to-head wins and losses against DII programs
  • Results against common DII opponents
  • RPI 
  • Performance indicator
  • Record vs. ranked teams

Once the committee comes to its consensus 41 at-large teams, the bracket is announced in a Selection Show on the Sunday before the tournament begins.

What does the DII men’s basketball championship bracket look like?

The championship bracket is set up like the traditional 64-team bracket we have become accustomed to thanks to March Madness. Two regions are placed in four separate quadrants. Play begins in eight single-elimination regional tournaments. The eight regional champions emerge as the DII Men’s Elite Eight and head to a final site for the remainder of the three rounds of play.

2019 BRACKET: See the complete 64-team bracket | Print your own

Beginning with the 2016 DII Men’s Elite Eight field, the remaining teams were seeded Nos. 1 through 8. The 2019 season was the first time that lower seeds advanced to semifinals play, as three of the four lower seeds accomplished the feat. The 2019 DII Men's Elite Eight.

Important dates for the 2019-20 DII men’s basketball tournament

Here are the dates you need to know for the coming DII men’s basketball championship. The 2020 season will culminate with a combined championship weekend, with DI, DII and DIII men’s basketball all playing their respective championship games during March Madness in Atlanta, Georgia, the site of the 2020 Final Four. This happened once before in 2013, which also took place in Atlanta.

The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place on the same site, returning to Evansville once again in 2020, 

Event Date How to watch City
Selection show March 8, 2020 N/A
Regional tournaments March 13-17, 2020 N/A Eight host sites (No. 1 seeds)
Elite Eight March 25-28, 2020 | CBS Sports Evansville, IN
Championship game April 5 CBS Atlanta, GA

2020 CHAMPIONSHIP: Men's basketball champs to be combined at 2020 March Madness

DII men’s basketball history

Wheaton was able to defeat Kentucky Wesleyan for that first national championship in 1957. Kentucky Wesleyan apparently took that personally. Since that loss, it has become the all-time winningest championship team in DII men’s basketball history with eight titles to its name. 

DII men's basketball: Tyler Evans buzzer beater gives Findlay the championship and perfect season

Northwest Missouri State won the most recent championship in 2019, the Bearcats second in three years. They also became just the fifth DII men’s basketball team to finish a season undefeated, ending 38-0 and joining Evansville (1965), Cal State Bakersfield (1993), Fort Hays State (1996), and Findlay (2009) in the exclusive club.

UNDEFEATED SEASON: We tracked the 2018-19 Bearcats season

You can take a look at the programs with the most DII men’s basketball championships here and see the complete championship game history below.

2019 Northwest Missouri State (38-0) Ben McCollum 64-58 Point Loma Evansville, Ind.
2018 Ferris State (38-1) Andy Bronkema 71-69 Northern State Sioux Falls, S.D.
2017 Northwest Missouri St. (35-1) Ben McCollum 71-61 Fairmont State Sioux Falls, S.D.
2016 Augustana [S.D.] (34-2) Tom Billeter 90-81 Lincoln Memorial Frisco, Tex.
2015 Florida Southern (36-1) Linc Darner 77-62 Indiana (Pa.) Evansville, Ind.
2014 Central Missouri (30-5) Kim Anderson 84-77 West Liberty Evansville, Ind.
2013 Drury (31-4) Steve Hesser 74-73 Metro State Atlanta, Ga.
2012 Western Washington (31-5) Brad Jackson 72-65 Montevallo Highland Heights, Ky.
2011 Bellarmine (33-2) Scott Davenport 71-68 BYU-Hawaii Springfield, Mass.
2010 Cal Poly Pomona (28-6) Greg kamansky 65-53 Indiana (Pa.) Springfield, Mass.
2009 Findlay (36-0) Ron Niekamp 56-53 (ot) Cal Poly Pomona Springfield, Mass.
2008 Winona State (38-1) Mike Leaf 87-76 Augusta State Springfield, Mass.
2007 Barton (31-5) Ron Lievense 77-75 Winona State Springfield, Mass.
2006 Winona State (32-4) Mike Leaf 73-61 Virginia Union Springfield, Mass.
2005 Virginia Union (30-4) Dave Robbins 63-58 Bryant Grand Forks, N.D.
2004 Kennesaw State (35-4) Tony Ingle 84-59 Southern Indiana Bakersfield, Calif.
2003 Northeastern State (32-3) Larry Gipson 75-64 **Kentucky Wesleyan Lakeland, Fla.
2002 Metro State (29-6) Mike Dunlap 80-72 Kentucky Wesleyan Evansville, Ind.
2001 Kentucky Wesleyan (31-3) Ray Harper 72-63 Washburn Bakersfield, Calif.
2000 Metro State (33-4) Mike Dunlap 97-79 Kentucky Wesleyan Louisville, Ky.
1999 Kentucky Wesleyan (35-2) Ray Harper 75-60 Metro State Louisville, Ky.
1998 UC Davis (31-2) Bob Williams 83-77 Kentucky Wesleyan Louisville, Ky.
1997 Cal State Bakersfield (29-4) Pat Douglass 57-56 Northern Kentucky Louisville, Ky.
1996 Fort Hays State (34-0) Gary Garner 70-63 Northern Kentucky Louisville, Ky.
1995 Southern Indiana (29-4) Bruce Pearl 71-63 UC Riverside Louisville, Ky.
1994 Cal State Bakersfield (27-6) Pat Douglass 92-86 Southern Indiana Springfield, Mass.
1993 Cal State Bakersfield (33-0) Pat Douglass 85-72 Troy Springfield, Mass.
1992 Virginia Union (30-3) Dave Robbins 100-75 Bridgeport Springfield, Mass.
1991 North Alabama (29-4) Gary Elliot 79-72 Bridgeport Springfield, Mass.
1990 Kentucky Wesleyan (31-2) Wayne Chapman 93-79 Cal State Bakersfield Springfield, Mass.
1989 North Carolina Central (28-4) Michael Bernard 73-46 Southeast Missouri State Springfield, Mass.
1988 Massachusetts-Lowell (27-7) Don Doucette 75-72 Alaska Anchorage Springfield, Mass.
1987 Kentucky Wesleyan (28-5) Wayne Chapman 92-74 Gannon Springfield, Mass.
1986 Sacred Heart (30-4) Dave Bike 93-87 Southeast Missouri State Springfield, Mass.
1985 Jacksonville State (31-1) Bill Jones 74-73 South Dakota State Springfield, Mass.
1984 Central Missouri (29-3) Lynn Nance 81-77 Saint Augustine's Springfield, Mass.
1983 Wright State (18-4) Ralph Underhill 92-73 District of Columbia Springfield, Mass.
1982 District of Columbia (25-5) Wil Jones 73-63 Florida Southern Springfield, Mass.
1981 Florida Southern (24-8) Hal Wissel 73-68 Mount Saint Mary's Springfield, Mass.
1980 Virginia Union (26-4) Dave Robbins 80-74 SUNYIT Springfield, Mass.
1979 North Alabama (22-9) Bill Jones 64-50 Green Bay Springfield, Mo.
1978 Cheyney (26-2) John Chaney 47-40 Green Bay Springfield, Mo.
1977 Chattanooga (27-5) Ron shumate 71-62 Randolph-Macon Springfield, Mass.
1976 Puget Sound (27-7) Don Zech 83-74 Chattanooga Evansville, Ind.
1975 Old Dominion (25-6) Sonny Allen 76-74 New Orleans Evansville, Ind.
1974 Morgan State (28-5) Nathaniel Frazier 67-52 Missouri State Evansville, Ind.
1973 Kentucky Wesleyan (24-6) Bob Jones 78-76 (ot) Tennessee State Evansville, Ind.
1972 Roanoke (28-4) Charles Moir 84-72 Akron Evansville, Ind.
1971 Evansville (22-8) Arad McCutchan 97-82 Old Dominion Evansville, Ind.
1970 Philadelphia University (29-2) Herb Magee 76-65 Tennessee State Evansville, Ind.
1969 Kentucky Wesleyan (25-5) Bob Daniels 75-71 Missouri State Evansville, Ind.
1968 Kentucky Wesleyan (28-3) Bob Daniels 63-52 Indiana State Evansville, Ind.
1967 Winston-Salem (30-2) C.E. Gaines 77-74 Missouri State Evansville, Ind.
1966 Kentucky Wesleyan (24-6) Guy Strong 54-51 Southern Illinois Evansville, Ind.
1965 Evansville (29-0) Arad McCutchan 85-82 (ot) Southern Illinois Evansville, Ind.
1964 Evansville (26-3) Arad McCutchan 72-59 Akron Evansville, Ind.
1963 South Dakota State (22-5) Jim Iverson 44-42 Wittenberg Evansville, Ind.
1962 Mount Saint Mary's (24-6) James Phelan 58-57 (ot) Sacramento State Evansville, Ind.
1961 Wittenberg (25-4) Ray Mears 42-38 Southeast Missouri State Evansville, Ind.
1960 Evansville (25-4) Arad McCutchan 90-69 Chapman Evansville, Ind.
1959 Evansville (21-6) Arad McCutchan 83-67 Missouri State Evansville, Ind.
1958 South Dakota (22-5) Duane Clodfelter 75-53 Saint Michael's Evansville, Ind.
1957 Wheaton (Ill.) (28-1) Lee Pfund 89-65 Kentucky Wesleyan Evansville, Ind.
**Student-athletes declared ineligible        

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