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Tournament format

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 Selection Committee. 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.

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