Here is how the 68 teams will be selected this March for the 2021 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness.
Each member of the Division I men's basketball committee evaluates a vast amount of information during selection process. Their opinions -- developed through observations, discussions with coaches, directors of athletics and commissioners, and review and comparison of data -- ultimately determine selections, seeding and bracketing.
There are three phases to the process:
I. Select the 37 best at-large teams;
II. Seed the field of 68 teams; and
III. Place the teams into the championship bracket.
Process Principles for Selection, Seeding and Bracketing
The Selection, Seeding and Bracketing process for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship adheres to the following principles:
- The committee selects the 36 best teams not otherwise automatic qualifiers for their conference to fill the at-large berths. There is no limit on the number of at-large teams the committee may select from one conference;
- The committee endeavors to achieve reasonable competitive balance in each region of the bracket;
- A committee member (“member”) shall not be present during any discussion regarding the selection or seeding of a team the individual represents as an athletics director or commissioner;
- A member is permitted to answer only general, factual questions about teams in the conference the individual represents;
- At no point in the process shall a member vote for a team the individual represents as an athletics director or commissioner;
- A committee member shall not be present during any discussion regarding the selection or seeding of a team in which an immediate family member is a student-athlete on the men’s basketball team, is a member of the men’s basketball coaching staff or is a senior athletics administrator at the institution (however upon returning to the room committee members will be updated on relevant discussion by the NCAA’s vice president of men’s basketball);
- At no point in the process shall a member vote for a team in which an immediate family member is a student-athlete on the men’s basketball team, is a member of the men’s basketball coaching staff or is a senior athletics administrator at the institution;
- All votes will be by secret ballot.
The Principles and Procedures are part of a comprehensive annual review of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship conducted from the conclusion of each year’s championship. This document was revised and approved by the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, Summer 2020, and will be in effect for the 2021 championship.
Committee members have a wide-range of observation, consultation and data resources available to them throughout the season and during selection week. These resources provide the foundation for a thorough and educated process that is reinforced by the committee member’s discussion and deliberation. Among the resources available to the committee are an extensive season-long evaluation of teams through watching games, conference monitoring calls and NABC regional advisory rankings; complete box scores and results, head-to-head results, results versus common opponents, imbalanced conference schedules and results, overall and non-conference strength of schedule, the quality of wins and losses, road record, player and coach availability and various computer metrics. Each of the 10 committee members uses these various resources to form their own opinions, resulting in the committee’s consensus position on teams’ selection and seeding.
I. SELECTING AT-LARGE TEAMS
Prior to the selection meeting, each committee member receives an “initial ballot” comprised of two columns listing all eligible Division I teams in alphabetical order.
Each committee member will submit the ballot by a designated time on the first full day of selection meetings:
a. In the first column, each member shall identify not more than 37 teams that, in that member’s opinion, should be at-large selections (AL) in the tournament based upon play to date, regardless of whether the team could eventually represent its conference as the automatic qualifier.
b. In the second column, each member shall identify all teams that should receive consideration (C) for an at- large berth. There is no minimum or maximum limit in the second column; however, only teams meriting serious consideration should receive votes.
2. Any team receiving all but two of the eligible votes in Column 1 (AL) is moved into the tournament field as an at-large selection.
3. The committee will form an "under-consideration” board consisting of an alphabetical listing of teams that:
a. Received at least three votes in either of the columns of the initial ballot but did not receive enough votes to be an at-large team; or
b. Won or shared the regular-season conference championship, as determined by the conference’s tie-break policy where applicable. This does not include teams that won or shared a division title but were not the regular-season conference champion.
4. A team may be removed from the “under-consideration” board at any time if it receives all but two eligible votes.
5. A team may be added to the “under-consideration” board at any time provided it receives at least three eligible votes.
6. Verbal nominations are permitted.
1. The committee then begins evaluating those teams on the “under consideration” board.
2. Each committee member will select the best eight teams from the “under consideration” board, in no particular order, to be added to the at-large field:
a. When 20 or more teams are under consideration in “list” ballots, each member shall select eight teams;
b. When 14 to 19 teams are under consideration, each member shall select six or fewer teams;
c. When 13 or fewer teams are under consideration, each member shall select four teams.
3. When 24 or fewer teams remain in the pool of teams (during the selection or seeding process), a member may not participate in “list X teams” votes if a team he or she represents as a commissioner or athletics director is included in the “pool.”
4. The eight teams receiving the most votes comprise the next at-large ballot.
5. Committee members then rank the eight teams, using a “ranking” scoring system (i.e., the best team is valued at one point).
6. The four teams receiving the fewest points shall be added to the at-large field. The other four teams will be held for the next ballot.
7. Each committee member then submits a list of the best eight teams remaining on the “under consideration” board to be added to the at-large field. The four teams with the highest vote totals are added to the teams carried over from No. 6 to comprise the next at-large ballot.
8. Steps No. 5, 6 and 7 will be repeated until all at-large berths are filled.
9. If a team fails to be included among the four teams receiving the fewest points (Step No. 6) for two consecutive ”rank” ballots, it shall be returned to the “under- consideration” board, without prejudice.
10. At any time during the process, the number of teams eligible to receive votes may be increased or decreased by the chair if circumstances warrant. Further, the chair has the option to revise the number of teams from four to fewer than four to be moved into at- large berths per No. 6.
11. A team may be removed from the at-large field by a vote of all but two of the eligible votes. Such a team would be returned to the “under consideration” board, without prejudice.
12. After the completion of three rounds of secret voting, if the voting results are still tied, the Chair shall break the tie.
13. At any time during the process of selecting the at-large teams, the committee may elect to begin seeding the teams (Section II). This allows the committee to proceed while allowing time for results of games played during selection weekend.
II. SEEDING TEAMS
The committee will create a “seed list” (i.e. rank of the teams in “true seeds” 1 through 68) which reflects the relative qualitative assessment of the field in descending order, and is used to assess competitive balance of the top teams across the four regions of the championship. The seed list reflects the sequential order with which teams will be placed in the bracket. Once the “seed list” is finalized, it remains unchanged while the bracket is assembled.
Importantly, various principles may preclude a team from being placed in its “true” seed position in the bracket.
Procedures for Seeding
1. Each committee member will submit a list of the best eight teams, in no particular order, from teams that are in the tournament as automatic qualifiers or at-large selections:
a. When 20 or more teams are on the list ballot, each member shall list eight teams;
b. When 14 to 19 teams are on the list ballot, each member shall list six or fewer teams;
c. When 13 or fewer teams are on the list ballot, each member shall list four teams.
Note: When 24 or fewer teams are on the list ballot to be seeded, a member may not participate in “list X teams” ballots if a team he or she represents as a commissioner or athletics director, or has an immediate family member conflict, is included in the “pool.”
2. The eight teams receiving the most votes comprise the next seed list ballot.
3. Committee members rank the eight teams from No. 1, using a “ranking” scoring system (i.e., the best team is valued at one point).
4. The four teams receiving the fewest points are moved onto the seed list in ascending order of vote total. The other four teams are held for the next rank ballot.
5. Each committee member then submits a list of the best eight remaining teams that are in the tournament as automatic qualifiers or at-large selections. The four teams with the highest vote totals are added to the teams carried over from No. 4 to comprise the next seed list ballot.
6. Steps No. 3, 4 and 5 are repeated until all the teams are seeded.
7. At any time during the process, the number of teams eligible to receive votes may be increased or decreased by the chair if circumstances warrant. Further, the chair has the option to revise the number of teams from four to fewer than four to be moved onto the seed list per No. 4.
8. After a team has been voted into the seed list, it may be moved by a simple majority of eligible votes. This “scrubbing” of the seed list allows the committee to affirm true seed accuracy throughout selection weekend and ultimately, in the bracket. Scrubbing is exclusively for teams that are in the field.
9. After the completion of three rounds of secret voting, if the voting results are still tied, the Chair shall break the tie.
10. The committee is not obligated to assemble the seed list in sequential order. For example, the committee may use the procedures to determine the fourth quadrant of teams at any time.
III. BUILDING THE BRACKET
Sixteen levels are established (i.e., the seeds, 1 through 16) in the bracket that cross the four regions, permitting evaluation of four teams simultaneously on the same level. Teams on each seed line (No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, etc.) should be as equal as possible.
Each region includes teams seeded 1 through 16. The four number 1 seeds are placed in different regions and the four number 2 seeds are as well, using the S-Curve concept, meaning the worst of the number 2 seeds (No. 8 on the overall seed list) is placed in the same region as the overall top seed).
Teams may be moved up or down the overall seed list to satisfy principles for conference matchups or regular-season rematches. These include:
Each of the top four teams selected from a conference shall be placed in different regions if they are seeded on the first four lines.
Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional final if they played each other three or more times during the regular season and conference tournament.
Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional semifinals if they played each other twice during the regular season and conference tournament.
Teams from the same conference may play each other as early as the second round if they played no more than once during the regular season and conference tournament.
If possible, rematches of non-conference regular-season games should be avoided in the First Four and first round.
Any principle can be relaxed if two or more teams from the same conference are among the last four at-large seeded teams participating in the First Four.
The last four at-large teams on the overall seed list, as well as teams seeded 65 through 68, will be paired to compete in the First Four games on Thursday, March 18. (If allowed, the last at-large team on the seed list will be paired with the second-to-last at-large team on the seed list. The other First Four games will consist of the third-to-last at-large team on the seed list playing the fourth-to-last at-large team on the seed list, as well as seed 65 versus 66; and seed 67 versus 68).
A team may be moved up or down one (or in extraordinary circumstances) two lines from its true seed line (e.g., from the 13 seed line to the 12 seed line; or from a 12 seed line to a 13 seed line) when it is placed in the bracket if necessary to meet the principles.
Procedures for Placing the Teams into the Bracket
1. The committee will place the four No. 1 seeds in each of the four regions, thus determining the Final Four semifinals pairings (overall 1 vs. 4; 2 vs. 3).
2. The committee will then place the No. 2 seeds in each region, placing the overall No. 8 seed in the same region as the overall No. 1 seed, the overall No. 7 seed in the same region as the overall No. 2 seed, the overall No. 6 seed in the same region as the overall No. 3 seed, the overall No. 5 seed in the same region as the overall No. 4 seed.. The committee will not compromise the principle of keeping the top four teams from the same conference in separate regions..
3. The committee will then place the No. 3 seeds in their respective regions (overall No. 9 seed with the Nos. 1 and 8, overall No. 10 seed with the Nos. 2 and 7, overall Nos. 11 seed with the Nos. 3 and 6, and overall No. 12 seed with Nos. 4 and 5). The committee will not compromise the principle of keeping the top four teams from the same conference in separate regions.
4. The committee will then place the No. 4 seeds in their respective regions (overall No. 13 seed with the Nos. 4, 5 and 12, overall No. 14 seed with the Nos. 3, 6 and 11, overall No. 15 seed with the Nos. 2, 7 and 10, and the overall No. 16 seed with the Nos. 1, 8 and 9). The committee will not compromise the principle of keeping the top four teams from the same conference in separate regions.
5. The committee will then place seeds Nos. 5-16 in the bracket, using an S-curve.
1. If possible, rematches of non-conference regular-season games should be avoided in the First Four and first round.
2. If possible, rematches from the previous tournament should be avoided in the First Four and first round.
NCAA EVALUATION TOOL (NET)
The NET is one of many resources/tools available to the committee in the selection, seeding and bracketing process. Computer models cannot accurately evaluate qualitative factors such as games missed by key players or coaches, travel difficulties and other effects of specific games.
Each committee member independently evaluates a vast amount of information during the process to make individual decisions. It is these qualitative, quantitative and subjective opinions -- developed after hours of personal observations, discussion with coaches, directors of athletics and commissioners, and review and comparison of various data -- that each individual ultimately will determine their vote on all issues related to selections, seeding and bracketing.
The NET has two components: the Team Value Index, which is based on game results and factors the result, the game location and outcome. The other component is net efficiency (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency), which is adjusted to account for the strength of the opponent and the location of the game.
Due to the later start to the season, the NCAA will release the first official NET rankings in January and will post those daily at www.ncaa.com.
The committee will create a “seed list” (i.e. rank of the teams in “true seeds” 1 through 68) which is used to assess competitive balance of the top teams across the four regions of this national championship. Additionally, the seed list reflects the sequential order with which teams will be placed in the bracket. Once the “seed list” is finalized, it remains unchanged while the bracket is assembled.
The last four at-large teams on the overall seed list, as well as teams seeded 65 through 68, will be paired to compete in First Four games on Thursday, March 18.
65 ________________________________________________________ First Four
66 ________________________________________________________ First Four
67 ________________________________________________________ First Four
68 ________________________________________________________ First Four