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How many teams are in March Madness? How are teams selected?

With March Madness almost here and teams yet to be selected, it’s time to take a look at how many there are and more importantly, how they are selected.

With March Madness almost here and teams yet to be selected, it’s time to take a look at how many there are and more importantly, how they are selected.
Carmen MandatoAFP

You may have heard the term “March Madness” and been curious about what it refers to. Simply put, it’s the largest basketball tournament in collegiate sports, with teams from around the nation invited to participate. Needless to say, every single one of them wants to be there.

What makes the tournament all the more intriguing is its framework i.e., it is structured in such a way that underdogs are given the best possible opportunity to win. With that, it often presents us with completely unexpected results. This means that experts and commentators are notoriously wrong when predicting the winner. However, because of the unpredictable nature of the “Bracket System,” it has quickly become a favorite for sports books. This year the tournament runs from Tuesday, March 19th, 2024 – Monday, April 8th, 2024.

How many teams participate in ‘March Madness’ & how are they selected?

32 of the 68 teams that are selected are “automatic bids,” meaning they won their conference tournament. The NCAA Selection Committee then chooses the remaining 36 teams. What comes next is “Selection Sunday” where the selection committee ranks the 68 teams based on their regular season performances. This year it will fall on Sunday, March 17th.

Once teams are selected, we get down to business with the “First Four” which sees four teams eliminated and 64 teams remaining. If you’re wondering, The eight teams in the First Four are the four weakest at-large bids and the four worst automatic bids. Among those aforementioned 64 teams, the competition is then divided into four regions with 16 teams each. The regions are the East, West, South, and Midwest. Teams are rated one through 16 within their regions, determining their seed. The No.1 seed should beat the No.16 seed, theoretically.

So, now we get to the part which has caused some contention over the year: The selection process. Teams are selected by the basketball selection committee. The group is comprised of twelve members: athletic directors and conference commissioners. As mentioned before, the group gathers on Selection Sunday to decide which 36 teams will participate in the tournament.

When it comes to maintaining the integrity of the tournament, one way in which the committee avoids potential conflicts of interest when choosing the teams is by requiring members to step out of the room while the body discusses the qualifications of his or her school. There is no pre-determined formula for deciding whether a team deserves an invitation. Instead, the selection committee considers various statistics in calculating whether a team will be granted an at-large berth, including its record, ranking, and strength of schedule.