The NCAA Tournament is called March Madness for a reason, but the process of selecting which teams get to experience it is nothing short of a science. On Sunday, college basketball fans get to see the results of that experiment for the first time in two years.
Selection Sunday is nearly here, setting in stone — for the most part — which teams will make the 2021 NCAA Tournament. While there are a few sure bets, other teams will need to rely on strong finishes or even win their conference tournament to make it into the final field.
The NCAA selection show will have a lot to unpack: not only what teams make it in, but also seeding, which is itself a fascinating and occasionally controversial part of the process.
Sporting News has you covered on everything you need to know regarding Selection Sunday 2021: date, time, TV channel, bracket projections and more:
When is Selection Sunday 2021?
- Date: Sunday, March 14
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
Selection Sunday 2021 will take place on Sunday, March 14; the bracket reveal is scheduled to air at 6 p.m. ET, but the full 68-team bracket — which includes First Four teams — won’t be unveiled until the conclusion of the last conference tournament.
What channel is March Madness selection show on?
CBS will air the NCAA selection show, but it can also be streamed via NCAA March Madness Live, Paramount+ and fuboTV (which offers a seven-day free trial). It will be the first time since 2019 that the selection show occurs; the NCAA elected not to create brackets for the tournament in 2020 after its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCAA Tournament 2021 selection format
The 68-team 2021 NCAA Tournament will be made up of 31 automatic qualifiers — teams that win their respective conference championships — and 37 at-large bids. In a normal year, 32 automatic qualifiers and 36 at-large bids would make up the field; the Ivy league canceled its 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball seasons, however, giving the selection committee an additional at-large team to select.
The committee has no formula to seeds teams, but there will be a notable difference in it brackets contestants this year than in previous seasons: The S-curve — a method of ranking each of the 68 initial teams in a snaking pattern — will be the only method to determine what teams are placed in what region. Since the 2021 NCAA Tournament will take place entirely in Indiana, geography won’t be a determining factor.
(This essentially guarantees the top seeds are sufficiently rewarded with lower-ranked matchups as the tournament progresses; it’s the difference between the top overall seed facing the No. 8 overall team in the Elite Eight, as opposed to the No. 5 overall team).
Geography has previously guided the selection committee’s decisions on what teams were placed in what region, resulting in some teams getting unfair matchups later in the tournament. An example of this fallacy occurred in the 2019 tournament, when Michigan State — the second-ranked 2-seed and No. 6 team overall — was placed in the East Region with top overall seed Duke.
The committee uses the NET ranking — established in 2018 — as its primary sorting tool to evaluate teams.
March Madness bracket predictions
There’s only so much certainty when it comes to which teams will make the 2021 NCAA Tournament; some, such as Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan, are virtual locks as 1-seeds (barring late-season meltdowns). Others, such as traditional powers Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State, need strong finishes to subpar seasons just to make the field.
Until then, here are Sporting News’ predictions for the final field of 68, according to Bill Bender:
- 1-seeds: Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor, Illinois
- 2-seeds: Alabama, Iowa, Houston, Ohio State
- 3-seeds: Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Virginia
- 4-seeds: Florida State, Purdue, Texas, West Virginia
NCAA Tournament schedule 2021
The 2021 NCAA Tournament starts on Thursday, March 18, with every First Four game taking place in a single day (as opposed to previous years, in which they took place over the course of two days). March Madness will proceed as usual from there, culminating with the Final Four and national championship game in Lucas Oil Stadium on April 3 and 5, respectively.
|First Four||March 18|
|Round 1||March 19-20|
|Round 2||March 21-22|
|Sweet 16||March 27-28|
|Elite Eight||March 29-30|
|Final Four||April 3|
|National championship||April 5|
When is the First Four?
Eight teams — the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers and four lowest-seeded at-large bids — will play in four “First Four” games on Thursday, March 18. That will cut the initial 68-team field down to 64, finalizing the tournament bracket.
When is the Final Four?
March Madness 2021 will conclude with the Final Four and national championship game rounds in Indianapolis. The Final Four will take place on April 3; two days later, the season will culminate in the national championship game.