Duke, coached by Mike Krzyzewski, won a rematch of the previous year's national final matchup against undefeated UNLV 79-77 in the semifinal, then won the national title with a 72–65 victory in the final game over Kansas, coached by Roy Williams. This was the first National Championship game for Williams as a head coach. Kansas defeated Williams' mentor Dean Smith and North Carolina in the semifinal. Kansas made its first trip to the National Championship game since 1988 when they defeated Oklahoma, making it their second trip to the Championship game in four seasons. Christian Laettner of Duke was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
For the first time, CBS Sports showed all 63 tournament games. In the first three rounds, games were shown on a regional basis, except for one game each on Saturday and Sunday in the second round. Usual start times were noon and 7:30 or 8 p.m. Eastern time on each of the Thursdays and Fridays. During the weekend of the second round, the national telecast began at noon, with the regional windows (three on Saturday, two on Sunday) following. Although the times would be adjusted, the same basic format was in place until 2010. As of 2011, the regional broadcasts will be replaced by simulcast feeds on non-broadcast networks owned by Turner Sports.
Duke's 79-77 win over UNLV in the Final Four became one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. UNLV's juggernaut 1990-91 squad ranked #2 on ESPN Classic's Who's #1? for Best Teams Not To Win a Title. UNLV was undefeated entering the 1991 tournament, which as of 2010 has not been duplicated.(St. Joseph's went undefeated in the 2004 regular season, finishing 27-0, but lost in their conference tournament before the NCAAs. Indiana is the last team to win the championship undefeated in 1976).
This was Duke's fourth consecutive Final Four trip, the first team to achieve such a feat since UCLA. Since freshmen were not eligible at the time of UCLA's run, Duke's Greg Koubek became the first player to play in four Final Fours, a record matched by Duke teammates Christian Laettner and Brian Davis the next year.
For the first time in tournament history a 15-seed defeated a 2-seed. Richmond defeated Syracuse 73-69. Since then this has happened three additional times: in 1993, Santa Clara defeated Arizona; in 1997, Coppin State defeated South Carolina; and in 2001, Hampton defeated Iowa State.
For bracketologists, this tournament is notable for several reasons. The first is the upset-heavy opening round, which led to every seed number except 16 being represented by at least one team in the second round. The East region, in particular, featured first round victories by seeds 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15. Two 11's and a 14-seed advanced in the other regions. The second round is equally remarkable because there were no upsets in this round whatsoever. The combination of these two anomalies led to an unprecedented occurrence in which a 10 (Temple), an 11 (Connecticut), and a 12-seed (Eastern Michigan) advanced to the Sweet Sixteen without any of the teams pulling off consecutive upsets. The reason for this was that the first round successes of 15-seed Richmond, 14-seed Xavier, and 13-seed Penn State led to Temple, Connecticut and Eastern Michigan (respectively) being considered favorites for their second round matchups.
This was the first NCAA Tournament to feature all four North Carolina-based Atlantic Coast Conference teams: North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke and Wake Forest.