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March Madness 2021: How many teams participate in the competition?

After the official bracket is announced on Selection Sunday (14 March), March Madness gets underway on Thursday, March 18 at 4 pm ET, starting with the ‘First Four’ play-in round.

Mar 13, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon State Beavers players celebrate with their ticket to 2021 March Madness after defeating the Colorado Buffaloes 70-68 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen R. SylvanieUSA TODAY Sports

After the annual March Madness tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college basketball fans are eagerly waiting for this year’s tournament – one of the sporting highlights at this time of year – to get underway.

The most notable difference this year is that all games will be played in Indiana, primarily in Indianapolis, with a total of 67 clashes to look forward to over the next few weeks.

After the official bracket is announced on Selection Sunday (14 March), the tournament will get underway on Thursday, March 18 at 4 pm ET, starting with the ‘First Four’ play-in round, in which eight teams will compete for the final four places up for grabs in the final 64-team playoff.

After the play-in round is finished, the first and second-rounds of the tournament will be played from Friday, 19 March to Monday, 22 March. The ‘Sweet 16’ and ‘Elite Eight’ ties will be played from Saturday, 27 March to Tuesday, 30, with the ‘Final Four’ battling it on Saturday, 3 April. After this, the remaining two competitors will square off in the NCAA Championship Final, which takes place at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, 5 April.

  • Selection Sunday: 6 p.m. 14 March
  • First Four: 4 p.m. Thursday 18 March
  • First round: 12 p.m. Friday 19 March and Saturday 20 March
  • Second round: 12 p.m. Sunday 21 March and Monday 22 March
  • Sweet 16: 2 p.m. Saturday 27 March and 1 p.m. Sunday 28 March
  • Elite Eight: 7 p.m. Monday 29 March and 6 p.m. Tuesday 30 March
  • Final Four: 5 p.m. Saturday 3 April
  • NCAA championship game: 9 p.m. Monday 5 April
  • (All times are Eastern Time and show when the action begins)

March Madness: Who are current champions?

The current champions are the Virginia Cavaliers, who won the last edition of the tournament in 2019 for the first time in their history. Among the favorites to life this year’s trophy are Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State.

How many teams participate in March Madness?

Including the teams that participate in the play-in round, a total of 68 teams currently comprise the March Madness tournament. The tournament has grown significantly over the years since its launch as an eight-team event in 1939.

In 1951 it was expanded to include 16 teams, before becoming a 32-school championship in 1975. The tournament size doubled again to 64 in 1985, eventually growing to the current 68-team format in 2011.

  • Lucas Oil Stadium (two courts but only one game at a time)
  • Bankers Life Fieldhouse
  • Hinkle Fieldhouse
  • Indiana Farmers Coliseum
  • Mackey Arena (West Lafayette)
  • Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington)

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