The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship
is a single elimination tournament
held each spring featuring 65 college basketball
teams in the United States
. This tournament, organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA), was first developed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (founded by Kansas coach Phog Allen
) in 1939. The NCAA would take over the tournament the following season. Colloquially known as March Madness
(as the tournament takes place mainly during the month of March) or the Big Dance
(as opposed to the now smaller and less prestigious NIT
), the tournament takes place over 3 weeks at sites across the United States, and the national semifinals (the Final Four
) have become one of the nation's most prominent sporting events.
Since its 1939 inception it has built a legacy that includes dynasty teams and dramatic underdog stories. In recent years, friendly wagering on the event has become something of a national pastime, spawning countless "office pools" that attract expert fans and novices alike. All games of the tournament are broadcast on the CBS broadcast television network in the United States, except for the opening round (also known as the "play-in") game, which aired on TNN in 2001, and ESPN since 2002. The tournament bracket is made up of conference tournament champions from each Division I conference, which receive automatic bids. The remaining slots are at-large berths, with teams chosen by an NCAA selection committee. The selection process and tournament seedings are based on several factors, including team rankings, win-loss records and RPI data.
Two low-seeded teams (typically teams with poor records that qualified by winning their conference tournament championships) compete in the "opening round" game to determine which will advance into the first round of the tournament, with the winner advancing to play the top seed in one of the four regions. The opening Round game was added in 2001 and has been played in University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio each subsequent year. Even though the opening round is technically considered part of the tournament, it is often referred to as a "play-in" game.
A Most Outstanding Player award is given by the Associated Press at the end of each tournament.
At 11 national titles, UCLA currently holds the record for the most NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championships. University of Kentucky is second, with 7 national titles, and Indiana University is third with 5 national titles.
A total of 65 teams qualify for the tournament played in March and April. Thirty-one of the teams earn automatic bids by winning their respective conference
tournaments. Because the Ivy League
does not conduct a post-season tournament, its regular-season conference champion receives an automatic bid.
The remaining thirty-four teams are granted at-large bids, which are determined by the NCAA Selection Committee, a special selection committee appointed by the NCAA. The committee also determines where all sixty-five teams are seeded and placed in the bracket. There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (9.2 quintillion) possibilities for a 64 team NCAA bracket.
The tournament is split into four regions and each region has teams seeded 1–16, with the committee making every region as comparable to the others as possible. The best team in each region plays the #16 team, the #2 team plays the #15, and so on. The effect of this seeding structure ensures that the better a team is seeded, the worse-seeded their opponents will be.
The brackets are not reseeded after each round. The tournament is single-elimination and there are no consolation games—although there was a third-place game as late as 1981, and each regional had a third-place game through the 1975 tournament. The single-elimination format produces opportunities for Cinderella teams to advance despite playing much tougher teams. Nonetheless, despite the numerous instances of early-round Tournament upsets, including four instances of a #15 seed defeating a #2 seed, no #1 seed has ever lost in the first round to a #16 seed.
Two teams play the opening round game
(colloquially known as the "play-in game") on the Tuesday preceding the first weekend of the tournament, with the winner of that game advancing to the main draw of the tournament and playing a top seed in one of the regionals. This game has been played at the University of Dayton Arena
in Dayton, Ohio since its inception in 2001
. This game originated in 2001 with the addition of the Mountain West Conference (and its automatic bid into the tournament) after the NCAA tournament committee opted to include an additional team and a play in game in lieu of taking away one of the 34 "at-large" bids.
First and second rounds: the "Pod" system
The first and second round games are played on the first weekend of the tournament, either on Thursday and Saturday or Friday and Sunday.
Since 2002, the tournament has used the so-called "pod" system, in which the eight first- and second-round sites are distributed around the four regionals. Before the 2002 tournament, all teams playing at a first- or second-round site fed into the same regional tournament. The pod system was designed to limit the early-round travel of as many teams as possible.
In the pod system, each regional bracket is divided into four-team "pods". The possible pods by seeding are:
- Pod #1: 1v16, 8v9
- Pod #2: 2v15, 7v10
- Pod #3: 3v14, 6v11
- Pod #4: 4v13, 5v12
Each of the eight first and second round sites is assigned two pods, where each group of four teams play each other. A host site's pods may be from different regions, and thus the winners of each pod would advance into separate regional tournaments.
No #1 seed has ever lost in the first round. Furthermore, only four #2 seeds have lost in the first round.
Regional semi-finals and finals
The teams which are still alive after the first weekend advance to the regional semi-finals (the Sweet Sixteen
) and finals (the Elite Eight
) played on the second weekend of the tournament (again, the games are split into Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday).
The winners of each region advance to the Final Four, where the national semifinals are played on Saturday and the national championship is played on Monday. Before the 2004 tournament, the pairings for the semifinals were based on an annual rotation. For example, in 2000, the winner of the West Regional played the winner of the Midwest regional, and the South winner played the East winner; in 2001, the West winner played the East winner and the South played the Midwest; in 2002, the West played the South and the East played the Midwest. Since 2004 and in response to complaints that too often the two best teams remaining squared off in a semifinal game and not in the final game (such as when the last two remaining 1 seeds, Kansas and Maryland, played in one semifinal while a 2 seed and a 5 seed played in the other semifinal), the pairings are determined by the ranking of the four top seeds against each other. The four number one seeds are ranked before the tournament begins.
The NCAA tournament has expanded a number of times in the last 65 seasons. This is a breakdown of the history of the tournament format:
- 1939-1950: eight teams
- 1951-1974: varied between sixteen teams and 25 teams.
- 1975–1978: 32 teams
- 1979: 40 teams
- 1980–1982: 48 teams
- 1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
- 1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
- 1985–2000: 64 teams
- 2001—present: 65 teams (with an "opening round" game to determine whether the 64th or 65th team plays in the first round)
Prior to 1975, only one team per conference could be in the NCAA tournament. However, a few factors led the NCAA to expand the field, notably the 1971 season when USC was #2 in the country with only 2 losses (both to #1 UCLA), and the 1974 ACC basketball Tournament final between Maryland and NC State, both of whom were top 5 teams that year.
March Madness & history of the term
March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March (Brent Musburger
is generally regarded as the individual who first used that phrase in conjunction with the college tournament, using it during CBS Sports
' coverage of the tourney back in 1982 - see below), especially those conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) and various state high school associations. The phrase was not associated with the college tournament in 1939, when an Illinois official wrote "A little March Madness [may] contribute to sanity." March Madness is also a registered trademark, held jointly by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association
. It was also the title of a book about the Illinois high school tournament written in 1977 by Jim Enright.
H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (and later a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame) was the first person to use March Madness to commemorate a basketball tournament. A gifted writer, Porter published an essay named March Madness in 1939 and in 1942 used the phrase in a poem, Basketball Ides of March. Through the years the use of March Madness picked up steam, especially in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest. During this period the term was used almost exclusively in reference to state high school tournaments. In 1977 the IHSA published a book about its tournament titled March Madness.
Fans began connecting the term to the NCAA tournament in the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who had worked for many years in Chicago prior to joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts.
Only in the 1990s did either the IHSA or NCAA think about trademarking the term, and by that time a small television production company named Intersport, Inc., had beaten them both to the punch. IHSA eventually bought the trademark rights from Intersport and then went after big game, suing GTE Vantage, Inc., an NCAA licensee that used the name March Madness for a computer game based on the college tournament. In a historic ruling, Illinois High School Association v. GTE Vantage, Inc. (1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit created the concept of a "dual-use trademark", granting both the IHSA and NCAA the right to trademark the term for their own purposes.
Following the ruling, the NCAA and IHSA joined forces and created the March Madness Athletic Association to coordinate the licensing of the trademark and investigate possible trademark infringement. One such case involved a company that had obtained the Internet domain name marchmadness.com and was using it to post information about the NCAA tournament. After protracted litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in March Madness Athletic Association v. Netfire, Inc. (2003) that March Madness was not a generic term and ordered Netfire to relinquish the domain name.
Championship trophies and other honors
As a tournament ritual, the winning team cuts down the net at the end of the regional championship game as well as the national championship game. Each player (traditionally with the seniors going first, then juniors, and so on) cuts a single strand off of the net for themselves, commemorating their victory, with the head coach cutting the last strand and claiming the net itself. Furthermore, the regional champs (starting in 2006) receive a bronze plated NCAA Regional Championship trophy (previously given to only the Final Four teams that did not make the championship game), and the National Champions also receive a gold plated NCAA National Championship trophy. The loser of the championship game receives a silver plated National Runner-Up trophy for second place.
After the championship trophy is awarded, one player is selected and then awarded the Most Outstanding Player award (which almost always come from the championship team). It is not intended to be the same as a Most Valuable Player award although it is sometimes informally referred to as such.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches also presents a more elaborate marble/crystal trophy to the top-ranked team in its end-of-season coaches' poll, which is invariably the same as the NCAA championship game winner. This award, currently sponsored as the "Siemens Trophy", is not affiliated with the NCAA and is presented either at a later press conference or immediately following the presentation of the standard NCAA trophy.
Television has been integral to the success of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Regional television broadcasts began in 1952, and the championship game was televised nationally for the first time in 1954. In 1969, the championship game was broadcast on network television for the first time, on NBC
. NBC also televised selected regional games, with first TVS Television Network
and later NCAA Productions, the in house production arm of the NCAA, broadcasting first and second round games to the markets where the universities are from.
began showing the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, which established ESPN's following among college basketball fans and was the network's first contract signed with the NCAA for a major sport. According to many fans of the tournament, ESPN was easily the best broadcaster of the first round, as six first-round games could be seen on both Thursday and Friday on ESPN, and CBS then picked up a seventh game at 11:30 pm ET. This meant 14 of 32 first-round games were televised. ESPN also re-ran games overnight. ESPN did not (and does not) have regional affiliates, so the entire country had to watch the same game; there was also no ESPN2 or other channels. (Areas with local interest in a game could see the game on a local channel, regardless of which game ESPN televised.) The benefit of this was that ESPN always showed the most competitive games, since that was the best way to gain national appeal.
In 1982, CBS obtained broadcast television rights to the tournament.
, CBS assumed responsibility for covering all games of the NCAA tournament, with the exception of the single Tuesday night "play-in" game. (The play-in game - between teams ranked 64 & 65 - is televised by ESPN, except for the first one, which was aired on TNN
, and used CBS graphics and announcers.)
Currently, CBS broadcasts the remaining 63 games of the NCAA tournament proper. Most areas see only eight of 32 first round games, seven second round games, and four regional semifinal games (out of the possible 56 games during these rounds). Coverage preempts regular programming on the network, except during a 2 hour window from about 5 ET until 7 ET when the local affiliates can show programming. The CBS format results in far fewer hours of first-round coverage than under the old ESPN format, but allows the games to reach a much larger audience than ESPN is able to reach.
CBS provides three sets of feeds from each venue, known as "constant" "swing" and "flex". Constant feeds remain primarily on a given game, and are used primarily by stations with local interest in a game. Despite its name, a constant feed may occasionally veer away to other games for brief updates, but coverage generally remains with the initial game. Swing feeds tend to stay on games of natural interest, such as teams from local conferences, but will go to other games that are close. On a flex feed, coverage bounces around from one venue to another, depending on action at the various games in progress. If one game is a blowout, coverage can switch to a more competitive game. Flex games have no natural interest for the stations carrying them, allowing the flex game to be the best game in progress. Station feeds are planned in advance and stations have the option of requesting either constant or flex feed for various games.
In 1999, DirecTV began broadcasting all games otherwise not shown on local television with its Mega March Madness premium package, at $49. The DirecTV system used the subscriber's zip code to black out games which could be seen on broadcast television. Prior to that, all games were available on C-Band satellite and were picked up by sports bars.
In 2003, CBS struck a deal with Yahoo!
to offer live streaming of the first three rounds of games under its Yahoo! Platinum service, for $16.95 a month. In 2004, CBS sold access to March Madness On Demand
for $9.95, which provided games not otherwise shown on broadcast television. The service was free for AOL
subscribers. In 2005, the service charged $19.95 but offered enhanced coverage of pregame and postgame interviews and press conferences. In 2006, March Madness On Demand
was made free, but dropped the coverage of interviews and press conferences. The service was profitable and set a record for simultaneous online streams at 268,000. In 2007 as well as 2008, March Madness On Demand
was again free to online users.
In addition, CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) broadcasts two "late early" games that would not otherwise be broadcast nationally. These are the second games in the daytime session in the Pacific Time Zone, to avoid starting games before 10 AM. These games are also available via March Madness on Demand and on CBS affiliates in the market areas of the team playing. In other markets, newscasts, local programming or preempted CBS morning programming (such as The Price is Right) are aired. CBS-CS also broadcasts the official pregame and postgame shows and press conferences from the teams involved.
The Final Four has been broadcast in HDTV
since 1999. From 2000 to 2004, only one first/second round site and one regional site were designated as HDTV sites. In 2005, all regional games were broadcast in HDTV, and four first and second round sites were designated for HDTV coverage. Local stations broadcasting in both digital
had the option of airing separate games on their HD and SD
channels, to take advantage of the available high definition coverage. Beginning in 2007, all games in the tournament (including all first and second round games) were available in high definition, and local stations were required to air the same game on both their analog and digital channels. However, due to satellite limitations, first round "constant" feeds were only available in standard definition.Some digital television stations choose not to participate in HDTV broadcasts of the first and second rounds and the regional semifinals, and split their signal into digital subchannels
to show all games going on simultaneously. Most notably, WRAL-TV
in Raleigh, North Carolina
has split its digital signal four ways since 2000
to show all of the games. In 2007, CBS broadcast all games from each regional site in HDTV, however, due to limitations in the CBS broadcast center, only the "Flex" feeds were in HD, constant feeds were in SD. Upgrades at the CBS broadcast center allowed all feeds, flex and constant, to be in HD for the 2008 tournament.
The entire country sees the regional finals, the national semifinals, and the national championship. At the end of CBS' coverage, a highlight reel featuring memorable moments from the tournament is shown, set to the song "One Shining Moment".
Outside of the United States
Outside of the United States, NASN
simulcasts the NCAA tournament, including the one shown on CBS College Sports, taking the suggested national feed.
The Division I Men's Basketball tournament is the only NCAA championship tournament (officially, the BCS Football Championship is not an NCAA event) where the NCAA does not keep the profits. Instead, the money from the multi-billion-dollar television contract is divided among the Division I basketball playing schools and conferences as follows:
- 1/6 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many sports they play (one "share" for each sport starting with 14, which is the minimum needed for Division I membership).
- 1/3 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many scholarships they give out (one share for each of the first 50, two for each of the next 50, ten for each of the next 50, and 20 for each scholarship above 150).
- 1/2 of the money goes to the conferences based on how well they did in the six previous men's basketball tournaments (counting each year separately, one share for each team getting in, and one share for each win except in the Play-in game and the Final Four). In 2007, based on the 2001 through 2006 tournaments, the Big East received over $14.85 million, while the eight conferences that did not win a first-round game in those six years received slightly more than $1 million each.
The term Final Four refers to the last four teams remaining in the playoff tournament. These are the champions of the tournament's four regional brackets, and the only teams remaining on the tournament's final weekend. (The term has been applied retroactively to include the last four teams in tournaments from earlier years, when only two brackets existed.)
Some claim that the phrase Final Four was first used to describe the final games of Indiana's annual high school basketball tournament. But the NCAA, which has a trademark on the term, says Final Four was originated by a Cleveland Plain Dealer sportswriter, Ed Chay, in a 1975 article that appeared in the Official Collegiate Basketball Guide. The article stated that Marquette University “was one of the final four” in the 1974 tournament. The NCAA started capitalizing the term in 1978, and turning it into a trademark several years later.
In the men's tournament, all sites are nominally neutral: teams are prohibited from playing tournament games on their home courts (though in some cases, a team may be fortunate enough to play in or near its home state or city). Under current NCAA rules, any court on which a team hosts more than three regular-season games is considered a "home court" (conference tournament games are not counted for this purpose). In the 2006 tournament, Villanova was able to play its first two games at the Wachovia Center in nearby Philadelphia, a venue where it had played three regular-season home games. A fourth home game at that facility would have disqualified them from playing there. However, some semi-"home" courts (such as George Mason playing its regional at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., not far from its campus in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2006) are mere quirks of scheduling and have been part of the tournament for years.
On the third weekend, traditionally a Saturday and Monday for the men's tournament and a Sunday and Tuesday for the women's tournament, the final four teams meet in semifinals on the first day and the championship on the second. For several years in the men's tournament, the teams eliminated in the semifinals met in a consolation game prior to the championship; this was discontinued in 1981.
Other Final Fours
In recent years, the term Final Four
has come into use for the last four teams in other elimination tournaments. Tournaments which use Final Four
include the Euroleague
in basketball, national basketball competitions in several European countries and the now-defunct European Hockey League. Together with the name Final Four
, these tournaments have adopted an NCAA-style format in which the four surviving teams compete in a single-elimination tournament held in one place, typically, during one weekend.
The derivative term "Frozen Four" is used by the NCAA to refer to the final rounds of the Division I men's and women's ice hockey tournaments. Until 1999, it was just a popular nickname for the last two rounds of the hockey tournament; officially, it was also called the Final Four.
The UNLV Runnin' Rebels are the last team to head into the Final Four undefeated, doing so in 1991 but losing to Duke 79-77 in the process.
7 teams, since the beginning of the seeding process, have entered
the tournament ranked #1 in at least 1 poll
and gone on to win the tournament:
- 1982: North Carolina
- 1992: Duke
- 1995: UCLA
- 2000: Michigan State
- 2001: Duke
- 2007: Florida
- 2008: Kansas
Prior to the seeding system, teams like North Carolina (1957), UCLA (1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973), and Indiana (1976) were ranked #1 and won the championship.
Since the NCAA started seeding teams (1979
), only once have all four #1 seeds made it to the Final Four (National Semifinals):
- 2008 North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA
The championship game has matched two #1 seeds only six times:
- 1982 North Carolina defeated Georgetown
- 1993 North Carolina defeated Michigan
- 1999 Connecticut defeated Duke
- 2005 North Carolina defeated Illinois
- 2007 Florida defeated Ohio State
- 2008 Kansas defeated Memphis
At least one #1 seed has made the Final Four in every year except:
The only team to beat three #1 seeds in a single tournament was #4 seed Arizona in 1997. Due to tournament structure, it's impossible to play a team from each one of the regions in a single tournament, thus it is impossible to play all four #1 seeds in a single tournament.
A #1 seed has never lost in the first round to a #16 seed.
Lowest seeds to reach each round since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
- Second Round: #15 seed (4 times)
- Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen): #13 seed (4 times), #14 seed (2 times):
- Regional Finals (Elite Eight): #12 & #10 seeds:
- National Semifinals (Final Four): #11 seed:
- National Finals (Championship Game): #8 seed:
While lower seeds have made the Final Four in the 64-team era (as shown above), the University of Pennsylvania's 1979 appearance is notable as they made it as a #9 seed—out of 10 teams in their region. In fact, they defeated the #10 seed, St. John's University in the regional final, following three upsets by each team.
No #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed since the field was expanded to 64 teams, though some have come close. Eleven #16 seeds have come within 10 points of a #1 seed, with five of them coming within 5 points. Two have come within one point. Only one #16/#1 game has gone into overtime (Murray State vs. Michigan State in 1990). The five #16 seeds that have come within 5 points of a #1 seed are:
Only four #15 seeds have ever defeated #2 seeds:
Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, each seed-pairing has played a total of 96 first-round games.
- The #1 seed has beaten the #16 seed all 96 times (100%).
- The #2 seed has beaten the #15 seed 92 times (96%).
- The #3 seed has beaten the #14 seed 81 times (84%).
- The #4 seed has beaten the #13 seed 79 times (82%).
- The #5 seed has beaten the #12 seed 65 times (67%).
- The #6 seed has beaten the #11 seed 66 times (69%).
- The #7 seed has beaten the #10 seed 60 times (62%).
- The #8 seed has beaten the #9 seed 44 times (46%).
Teams entering the tournament undefeated
- In 1956, San Francisco entered the tournament at 24-0. The Dons, behind future Hall of Famers Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, won the national title, ending the season 29-0 and with a 55-game winning streak (which would reach a then-record 60).
- The North Carolina Tar Heels entered the 1957 tournament at 27-0. They went on to win the national title, surviving triple-overtime marathons in both the national semifinals against Michigan State and the final against Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas.
- The Ohio State Buckeyes entered the 1961 tournament at 24-0, but lost in the national championship game to Cincinnati.
- The UCLA Bruins have entered the tournament undefeated and gone on to win the title 4 times: 1964, 1967, 1972 and 1973. They were led during all these years by legendary coach John Wooden and featured future NBA stars like Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Gail Goodrich, and Bill Walton. The 1972 and 1973 seasons were part of their record 88-game winning streak.
- UCLA was not the only team to enter a tournament unbeaten during that era. In 1968, Houston, who had beaten UCLA in the first nationally-televised regular-season game ever during that season, entered the tournament at 28-0. They made the Final Four, but lost twice—first to UCLA in a regular-season rematch in the semifinals, and then to Ohio State in the national third-place game—to finish 31-2.
- The University of Pennsylvania Quakers entered the 1971 tournament with a record of 26-0. They eventually fell to Villanova, a team the Quakers had defeated earlier in the regular season, 90-47 in the East Regional Final. However, Villanova was disqualified after the tournament for having an ineligible player. Their first place finish in the east regional was relinquished to Penn.
- The same year, the Marquette University Warriors coached by the colorful Al McGuire and led by Dean Meminger entered the tournament with a record of 26-0. They were beaten by Ohio State, 60-59 and finished with a record of 28-1.
- The Indiana Hoosiers entered undefeated and lost to Kentucky in the regional final in the 1975 tournament.
- The 1976 Indiana Hoosiers are the most recent team to go undefeated in both the regular season and the tournament, winning the 1976 title. The 1976 Final Four was also the last to feature two unbeaten teams: eventual champion Indiana and Rutgers. Rutgers went 31-0 before losing in both the semifinals (to Michigan) and the third-place game (to UCLA).
- In the 1979 tournament, Indiana State entered the national championship game undefeated (33-0) but lost to Michigan State. The game was the first meeting of Larry Bird for Indiana State and Magic Johnson for Michigan State.
- In 1991, UNLV entered the tournament at 34-0 but lost in the national semifinal to Duke.
Teams finishing the regular season undefeated but not playing in the tournament
- During the 1952-53 season the NCAA and SEC suspended the University of Kentucky basketball program for recruiting violations, canceling it's entire schedule. The following year (1954) Kentucky finished it's regular season 25-0 and ranked #1. However, the NCAA ruled that UK seniors Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos all had enough credits to graduate (earned in large part during the suspended season the previous year, which technically made them graduate students) and were therefore ineligible to compete in postseason play. UK coach Adolph Rupp subsequently refused the bid to play in that years NCAA tournament.
- In 1973 the North Carolina State Wolfpack finished the regular season 27-0 and ranked #2 (behind undefeated and eventual tournament champion UCLA) but were barred from participating in the NCAA tournament while on probation for recruiting violations.
Teams entering the tournament with 1 loss
- In 1955, San Francisco entered the tournament at 24-1 and on a 22-game winning streak. Bill Russell and K.C. Jones led the Dons to a 28-1 finish and the first of their consecutive national titles.
- In 1958, San Francisco again entered the tournament at 24-1, but without the graduated Russell and Jones. This time, they lost to Seattle in the West Regional semifinal, finishing the season at 25-2 after defeating Idaho State in the regional third-place game.
- In 1959 Kansas State entered the NCAA tournament 24-1 and ranked #1. They lost to Cincinnati, led by Oscar Robertson, 85-75 in the Midwest Regional finals (Cincinnati was defeated in the National Semifinals by eventual champion California, a 71-70 winner over Jerry West led West Virginia), beginning a five year stretch (1959-1963) in which the Bearcats played in every Final Four, winning the championship twice (1961, 1962).
- In 1960 Cincinnati entered the tournament 25-1 and ranked #1 and defending champion California entered the tournament 24-1 and ranked #2. The two teams met in the National Semifinals with Cal winning 77-69. Cal was then defeated by Ohio State 77-55 in the National Finals while Cincinnati defeated NYU 95-71 in the third place game so both Cal and Cincinnati finished the year with identical 28-2 records.
- In 1962, the year after Ohio State suffered its only loss of the season in the national championship game to Cincinnati, the Buckeyes entered the tournament at 23-1. They advanced to the national championship game for the third straight year, but lost again to Cincinnati.
- Both Texas Western (now known as UTEP) and Kentucky entered the 1966 tournament with one loss—Texas Western at 23-1 and Kentucky at 24-1. The teams met in the national championship game, with Texas Western winning 72-65 and finishing 28-1.
- During UCLA's run of national championships under John Wooden, the Bruins entered the tournament with one loss in 1968, 1969, and 1971, winning the national title with a 29-1 record each time.
- St. Bonaventure, with NBA hall of famer Bob Lanier, entered with one loss in 1968, losing in the regional semifinals to North Carolina. Lanier would lead Saint Bonaventure to a Final Four appearance in 1970, but would be unable to compete in the game, having suffered a broken foot in the Regional Championship victory over Villanova.
- Kentucky entered the 1970 tournament at 25-1, but lost in the Mideast Regional final to Jacksonville.
- North Carolina State entered the 1974 tournament 26-1, losing only to UCLA during the regular season. NC State defeated UCLA in the national semifinals, en route to a NCAA Championship over Marquette, finishing 30-1.
- San Francisco returned to national prominence in 1977, entering the tournament at 29-1; the lone loss during the regular season was at Notre Dame. However, they lost in the first round of the West Regional to UNLV,121-95, who went on to make the Final Four for the first time.
- UNLV entered the 1987 NCAA tournament ranked #1 with a 33-1 record; the lone loss during the regular season was at Oklahoma, 89-88. They lost to eventual tournament champion Indiana 97-93 in the National Semifinals finishing the year 37-2. The 37 wins was a record tied by Duke (1999) and Illinois (2005) and surpassed in 2008 by Memphis (38-2). In those years Duke, Illinois and Memphis all lost in the National Finals game.
- Temple entered the 1988 tournament at 29-1. They lost 63-53 in the East Regional Final to Duke, who eventually lost to Kansas in the National Semifinals.
- La Salle entered the 1990 tournament sporting a 29-1 record. La Salle defeated Southern Mississippi in the first round before blowing a 19-point lead and falling to Clemson by a score of 79-75 in the second round.
- Duke (in 1999) and Illinois (in 2005) entered their national championship games with 37-1 records, only to lose in the final game.
- Massachusetts (35-1) in 1996 (later vacated) lost in the national semifinal to eventual champion Kentucky.
- Kansas entered the 1997 NCAA Tournament with a record of 32-1, but was beaten in the Sweet Sixteen by the eventual champion, Arizona.
- In 2004, Saint Joseph's finished the regular season undefeated (27-0) but lost in their conference tournament. They entered the tournament with a 27-1 record, but lost in the East Regional Final to Oklahoma State. Stanford University in the same year entered the tournament with a loss in the last game of the regular season to Washington. They eventually faced Washington again in the conference championship and won to finish at 29-1. Their tournament appearance in the West Regional ended early; Alabama defeated them in the second round.
- Illinois entered the 2005 tournament at 32-1. They made it to the National Championship game, but lost to North Carolina.
- Memphis entered the 2008 tournament at 33-1, having lost only to their intrastate rival Tennessee. They made it to the National Championship game, but lost to Kansas in overtime.
Courts and Venues
- Since 1986, the winning team is traditionally given the floor from the championship venue to keep. What the school does with it varies: some schools sell pieces of it to fans, others simply put it in storage, and still others use it in their venues, such as Michigan State did in 2002 and Florida did in 2006, re-painting the hardwood and placing it in their home arena. The only exception to this was in 1978: for that year's Final Four, the NCAA had to truck in Indiana's court from Assembly Hall to the Checkerdome in St. Louis, as the basketball floor at that hockey arena had been warped as a result of water damage. Notably, Duke University Bookstores donated the 2001 floor to the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center, a Durham, North Carolina non-profit community center.
- The NCAA has banned the Bi-Lo Center and Colonial Center in South Carolina from hosting tournament games, despite their sizes (16,000 and 18,000 seats, respectively) because of an NAACP protest at the Bi-Lo Center during the 2002 first and second round tournament games over that state's refusal to take down the Confederate Battle Flag from their state capitol. Following requests by the NAACP and Black Coaches Association, the Bi-Lo Center, and the newly built Colonial Center, which was built for purposes of hosting the tournament, were banned from hosting any future tournament events.
- The first instance of a domed stadium being used for a NCAA Tournament Final Four was the Houston Astrodome in 1971, but the Final Four would not return to a dome until 1982, when the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans hosted the event for the first time. Since 1997, the NCAA has held their Final Four sessions in domed stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000, usually having only a half of the dome in use. The last small arena to host the Final Four was The Meadowlands in 1996. As of 2009, the minimum was raised to 70,000, by adding additional seating on the floor of the dome, and raising the court on a platform three feet above the dome's floor, which is usually crowned for football, like the setup at Minnesota's Williams Arena. Additionally, since the NCAA's headquarters are in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Final Four is held in that city every five years, first at the RCA Dome, and (as of 2011) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Prior to 2004, each region of the tournament bracket was identified geographically, e.g. West, Midwest, South (or Southeast), East. For the 2004, 2005 and 2006 tournaments, the regionals were identified by the city in which the regional finals were held, e.g. Phoenix, St. Louis, Atlanta, East Rutherford in 2004; Albuquerque, Chicago, Austin, Syracuse in 2005, etc. The official reason for this was that the regional identifications had begun to confuse fans now that first and second round sites were no longer tied to a particular region; for example, even though in 2002 the Indiana Hoosiers played in the South regional finals held in Lexington, KY, it began the tournament playing in Sacramento, until then a city considered part of the West region. Another possible reason for the shift in identification is that not infrequently the regional final sites did not fit easily into geographical designations. For example, in the 1979 tournament, the Mideast regional site was Indianapolis, while the Midwest site was Cincinnati, which is 90 miles to the southeast of Indianapolis. In 1987, the Midwest regionals site was again Cincinnati, and the Southeast site was in Louisville, 90 miles to the southwest. In 1994, the Southeast regional finals site, Knoxville, TN, was actually the northernmost of the four sites (West: Los Angeles; Midwest: Dallas; East: Miami). The geographic confusion was not limited to regional finals sites; in 1990, Atlanta hosted first- and second-round games in the East regional, while Richmond, VA, 530 miles to the northeast of Atlanta, hosted first- and second-round games in the Southeast regional. However, regional sites reverted to being identified geographically in 2007.
- Smallest margin of victory in a championship game: 1 point
Indiana 69, Kansas 68 (1953)
North Carolina 54, Kansas 53/3OT (1957)
California 71, West Virginia 70 (1959)
North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 (1982)
Indiana 74, Syracuse 73 (1987)
Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79/OT (1989)
- Biggest margin of victory in a championship game: 30 points
UNLV 103, Duke 73 (1990)
- Margin of 10 points: UCLA, Michigan State and Duke are teams to win every game in the tournament by 10 points or more on their way to a championship. Michigan State accomplished this twice (1979, 2000) and Duke (2001) and UCLA (1967) once.
Twice in the history of the tournament, the finalists in one year failed to even make the tournament field the following year.
neither Indiana State
nor Michigan State
qualified for the tournament after the loss of their star players Larry Bird
and Magic Johnson
, both of the 2007
and Ohio State
, failed to make the NCAA tournament. Both were invited to that year's postseason National Invitation Tournament
. Each made it to that tournament's final four. Florida fell to the University of Massachusetts
in the semifinals, but Ohio State won the tournament.
||1961, 1962 |
||1999, 2004 |
||1991, 1992, 2001 |
||2006, 2007 |
||1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987 |
||1952, 1988, 2008 |
||1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998 |
||1980, 1986 |
||1979, 2000 |
||1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 |
|North Carolina State
||1974, 1983 |
||1945, 1946 |
||1955, 1956 |
||1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995 |
|UTEP (Texas Western)