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The long-awaited return of March Madness is nearly here. It all starts tomorrow, March 14, with Selection Sunday and the reveal of the finalized 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket.
Here is everything you need to know to tune in and catch the debut of this year’s Big Dance bracket:
Date: March 14
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Printable Bracket: Click here for a blank printable bracket. This link will be updated for the official bracket following the 68-team field reveal during the Selection Sunday telecast.
While some schools have already punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament via an automatic bid that comes along with winning their respective conference tourney, there are still plenty more spots in the 68-team field up for grabs.
Many of the bigger conference tourneys will be ongoing through the weekend, with the conclusion of these events determining the remaining auto bids—of which there are 31 in total, one for each Division 1 conference minus the Ivy League, which elected not to play this season—while the selection committee will finalize the 37 at-large bids just prior to the official bracket reveal tomorrow night.
Only 11 conference tournaments have concluded as of Saturday morning, but another 15—including the ACC, Big 12, Big East and Pac-12—will have crowned their champion and have a guaranteed NCAA Tournament representative by the end of the night. Below you can find all the automatic bid recipients thus far:
As of 9 am ET on Saturday, March 13
Big South: Winthrop
Horizon League: Cleveland State
Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago
Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s
Ohio Valley: Morehead State
Southern: UNC Greensboro
Summit League: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt: Appalachian State
West Coast: Gonzaga
A new wrinkle for this year’s NCAA Tournament is that the committee will be using an “s-curve” system to seed all 68 programs in the field. Because March Madness is being centralized in the greater Indianapolis area, the seeding process will no longer account for a school’s location when building the brackets.
The March Madness brackets will still function the same, being sorted into four regions with 16 teams each. This has been the case since 1985 when the tourney expanded to its current 64-team format, but the s-curve methodology will simplify the seeding process to match the strongest No. 1 seed in the same region with the weakest No. 8, the second-strongest No. 1 with the second-weakest No. 8 and so on.
In years prior, geographic concerns would have the committee try to place the top schools in regions closer to their respective campuses, a seeding factor that won’t be accounted for this year as each of the 63 proper tournament games and all four of the First Four matchups will be held within the state of Indiana.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the foremost expert in the bracketology field, recently posted his latest prediction for how the complete 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket will look once the committee has finished its work on Selection Sunday:
Joe Lunardi’s bracketology predictions for March Madness as of 9 am ET on 3/13.
After an incredible, 26-0 run through the regular season and WCC Tournament, Gonzaga is pretty much guaranteed to earn a No. 1 seed this year. The remaining regional leaders still need to be determined, but Lunardi believes that Michigan, Illinois and Baylor will each top a region in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The Big Ten Tournament results will have significant influence in how the committee elects to dole out some of these coveted top seeds. Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State are all still alive going into the event’s semifinal round on Saturday, with the Wolverines taking on the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes matching up with the Fighting Illini this afternoon. The outcome of these games and tomorrow’s final are expected to figure heavily into the selection process for several No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.
The Big Ten Network tweeted out a clip of Andy Katz discussing the ramifications of Friday’s conference tournament results and how they figure to impact the seedings in the 2021 NCAA Tournament:
The two most notable teams that are projected to miss out on March Madness this year are Duke and Kentucky. These NCAA Tournament fixtures both struggled tremendously during the 2020-21 campaign and weren’t able to cobble together a late-season run they needed to defy the odds and make the field.
The Blue Devils had their already slim chances of making a miraculous romp through the ACC Tournament dashed due to an outbreak of coronavirus that forced the program to cancel it’s conference quarterfinal showdown with Florida State. With the Seminoles automatically advancing, Duke finishes the year with a middling 13-9 record (9-9 ACC) that almost certainly won’t see the school appear in the 68-team field when brackets are revealed.
The Wildcats also desperately needed to win their conference tournament to be guaranteed a bid to the Big Dance, but the squad lost to Mississippi State by a single point on Thursday. Because Kentucky fell short in just the second round of the SEC tourney—a defeat that dropped them to to 9-16 on the year—the school will assuredly be missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth after suffering through its first losing campaign since 1988-89.
While these big name programs won’t be involved, there will still be no shortage of excitement during March Madness. For those not wanting to miss a minute of the college basketball action, here is the complete schedule for the 2021 NCAA Tournament, including dates, start times and TV channel information for each round:
All Times ET
Every 2021 NCAA Tournament game will be live streamed via March Madness Live
I’ve been working in the realm of sports my entire career, starting as a breaking news writer right out of Arizona State University. After three years of writing, I