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Is March Madness only for D1 college sports teams?

As we get our brackets filled out, you may notice that your favorite college is not among the schools available. What are the criteria for taking part?

Mar 12, 2022; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks place their logo on the March Madness tournament ticket after the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at T-Mobile Center. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
William PurnellUSA TODAY Sports

March Madness, you may be interested to know, is a television branding moniker, not the official title of the tournaments themselves. The actual names are the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament and the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. Each tournament is made up of 68 college basketball teams from the Division I level, but invitation is not available to all teams.

There are 32 automatic bids into the competition, reserved for the winning teams from each of the 32 conferences. Additionally, there are 36 “at-large” bids, given to teams seen as being the most competitive runners up from around the country. Generally, these bids are given to teams from the big conferences such as the ACC, the Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12.

A selection committee made up of athletic directors and commissioners is appointed for five years and they have the final say on who is offered a bid. To help them make this decision, they use a metric called the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) which takes account of:

  • Game results
  • Strength of schedule
  • Location (home, away, or neutral site)
  • Scoring margin. No added credit is given for victory margins above 10 points, with overtime games assigned a margin of 1 point, regardless of the final score.
  • Net offensive and defensive efficiency
  • All games will be evaluated equally, without taking into account when in the season a game takes place.
  • Quality of wins and losses.

The committee will meet to select and place all 68 teams on a Sunday in March known as Selection Sunday. The first round of games begin on the third Thursday of March, with Selection Sunday immediately previous, which means that it can never fall before March 11 or after March 17.

With the growth of fantasy sports in the United States, March Madness has become one of the largest annual sporting events of the calendar. Have you filled in your bracket?


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