March is just another month; a lovely month perhaps, signifying the beginning of Spring. An important month, where people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, unite in observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and in taking action against racism.
In the United States however, March also signifies a huge celebration of youth athletics and sportsmanship as a vital part of education, of young people’s growth and development, promoting their achievements and the importance of team spirit in the quest for excellence. That celebration is the so-called “March Madness”, and is truly a tournament to watch and go crazy over!
According to the official website of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), “March Madness is one of the biggest, most exciting and fun events in all of sports”. It is the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament that has been played since 1939. [...] The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is a single-elimination tournament of 68 teams that compete in seven rounds for the national championship. The penultimate round is known as the Final Four, when (you guessed it) only four teams are left”.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes from up to 1,268 North American institutions and conferences. It also organizes the athletic programs of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and helps over 480,000 college student athletes who compete annually in college sports. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The current three-division system of Division I, Division II, and Division III was adopted by the NCAA membership in a special convention in August 1973. Under NCAA rules, Division I and Division II schools can offer scholarships to athletes for playing a sport. (via Wikipedia).
So in short, the NCAA connects talented college athletes with their brightest future, and as they strive to reach it, young athletes give their best performances for the world to see! And it all starts with Selection Sunday.
There is a selection process for college basketball's NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments that determines which teams (68 men's and 68 women's) will enter the tournaments and their seedings and matchups in the knockout bracket.
Out of the 68 teams, 32 teams get an automatic entry, since there are 32 conferences in Division I where all winning teams receive an automatic bid, as winners of the conference tournament.
The remaining teams (36 men's, 36 women's) rely on the selection committee to award them an at-large bid in the tournament.
The selection process primarily takes place on Selection Sunday and the days leading up to it. Selection Sunday is also when the men's brackets and seeds are released to the public. Starting in 2022 the women's championship brackets and seeds are also announced on Selection Sunday, instead of one day later, as they used to.
The selection committee only selects the teams (36 for men and women) who receive at-large bids. Though each conference receives only one automatic bid, the selection committee may select any number of at-large teams from each conference. The at-large teams generally come from college basketball's top conferences, including the ACC, The American, A-10, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12, and SEC. Many of these at-large teams, however, are "on the bubble", meaning that their chances of gaining a tournament berth are borderline, and they will not know if they have gained entry until the Selection Sunday bracket announcements.
So, what are the selection criteria?
Originally, the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) rating which ranks sports teams based upon their wins, losses and their strength of schedule - meaning the difficulty of their opponents, was often considered a factor in selecting and seeding the final few teams in the tournament field.
However, the NCAA selection committee in 2015 said the RPI was only utilized for grouping the teams into groups such as top 50 and top 100 teams, to value the wins and losses, and not as a factor for selection.
During the 2018 offseason, the NCAA announced that the RPI would no longer be used in the selection process for the Division I men's tournament. The RPI has been replaced by the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), a new metric that includes the following input data: