|No. of teams||68|
|Most recent champion(s)||Baylor (1)|
|Most titles||UCLA (11)|
|TV partner(s)||CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV|
The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, also known and branded as NCAA March Madness, is a single elimination tournament held each spring in the United States, featuring 68 college basketball teams, both conference champions and at-large selections. The tournament, organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was the brainchild of Kansas coach Phog Allen. Held mostly in March, it is informally known as the Big Dance; the tournament, and especially the national semi-finals and final (the Final Four), has become one of the nation's most prominent sporting events.
The tournament bracket has included 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 analytic data. The four lowest-ranked conference champions, plus the four lowest-ranked at-large teams (i.e., those that failed to earn automatic bids), play in a series of games known as the First Four to determine which will join the other 60 teams in the first round of the tournament.
A Most Outstanding Player award is given by the Associated Press at the end of each tournament.
At 11 national titles, UCLA holds the record for the most NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championships; John Wooden, also known as the Wizard of Westwood, coached UCLA to 10 of its 11 titles. The University of Kentucky is second, with 8 national titles, while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (known simply as "North Carolina") is third with 6 national titles.
All tournament games are televised in the United States by a joint venture between CBS and WarnerMedia (a division of AT&T). Coverage is co-produced by CBS Sports and the Turner Sports division of WarnerMedia; games are divided between CBS and the WarnerMedia channels of TBS, TNT, and truTV. CBS Sports Network re-airs games from all channels.
On April 22, 2010, it was announced that the NCAA had reached a new 14-year, $11 billion deal with CBS Sports and Turner Sports for the rights to broadcast the NCAA Tournament from 2011-2024. The tournament expanded to 68 teams starting in 2011. In 2016, the broadcast deal was extended through 2032, with the extension costing an additional $8.8 billion.
- 1 Tournament
- 2 Format history
- 3 March Madness and history of the term
- 4 Championship trophies and other honors
- 5 Television
- 6 Revenues
- 7 Final Four
- 8 Final Four records
- 9 Outcome prediction
- 10 Tournament trends
- 10.1 Top-ranked teams
- 10.2 #1 seeds
- 10.3 High seeds
- 10.4 Low seeds
- 10.5 First-round games
- 10.6 Upsets
- 10.7 Second-round games
- 10.8 Teams entering the tournament undefeated
- 10.9 Teams finishing the regular season undefeated but not playing in the tournament
- 10.10 Teams entering the tournament with one loss
- 10.11 Courts and venues
- 10.12 Home state
- 10.13 Region names
- 10.14 Championship margins
- 10.15 Top 5 largest tournament point differentials by championship teams
- 11 Champions that missed the tournament the following year
- 12 Winners
- 13 Coaches
- 14 Future host cities
A total of 68 teams qualify for the tournament played in March and April. Each all-sports conference in Division I, currently 32, holds a postseason tournament whose winner earns an automatic bid to the tournament. The last conference that did not hold a postseason tournament, the Ivy League, began its conference tournament in 2017.
The remaining 36 tournament slots are granted to at-large bids, which are determined by the Selection Committee, a special committee appointed by the NCAA. Teams whose tournament inclusion status via at-large bids is unclear are called being on the "bubble". The committee also determines where all 68 teams are seeded and placed in the bracket.
The tournament is split into four regions and each region has teams seeded 1–17, with the committee making every region as comparable to the others as possible. The selection committee seeds teams in an "S" pattern, with the "highest" #1 seed, in the same region as the "lowest" #2 seed, and so on. Through the 2010 tournament, the winner of the single opening-round game was the #16 seed in a region and played one of the #1 seeds. With the expansion of the tournament to 68 teams, each region will have an opening-round game. The NCAA spent the early summer of 2010 weighing options for the opening round games before announcing the new format that July; the two most widely speculated on in media reports were:
- Using the same structure as in 2010, with the two lowest-seeded teams in each region, ranked at #16 and #17, playing in the opening round, with the winner of each game advancing to face the #1 seed.
- Exempting teams with automatic bids from the opening-round games, instead matching up the eight lowest-ranked at-large teams in the tournament. Each winner would then advance to face a higher-seeded team, but not necessarily the top seed.
Ultimately, neither option was chosen; the NCAA's final choice is discussed below.
In all regions, the #1 seed plays the #16 seed; 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 higher seeded teams. Nonetheless, despite the numerous instances of early-round Tournament upsets, including nine instances of a #15 seed defeating a #2 seed (and two of those nine also winning their second tournament games), only one #1 seed has ever lost in the first round to a #16 seed.
Opening round (2001–2010), First Four (2011–present)
When the Mountain West Conference was created in 1999, the winner of the Mountain West Conference Men's Basketball Tournament for the 1999-2000 season did not receive an automatic bid. As an alternative to eliminating an at-large bid, the NCAA expanded the tournament to 65 teams beginning in 2001. The #64 and #65 seeds played the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Opening Round Game (informally known as the "play-in game" though the NCAA frowns on use of that term) on the Tuesday preceding the first weekend of the tournament. This game was played at the University of Dayton Arena (commonly known as UD Arena) in Dayton, Ohio from its inception.
Since 2011, when the tournament expanded to 68 teams, four play-in games have been played, known as the "First Four". The final four at-large teams and final four automatic qualifiers play in these four games in order to advance into the traditional 64-team bracket. UD Arena has hosted all First Four games except in 2020, when COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the entire tournament, and 2021, when continued COVID-19 issues caused the entire tournament to be moved to Indiana. The 2021 First Four games were split between two college venues in that state—Indiana's Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington and Purdue's Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
First and second rounds (pre-2011, 2016–present), second and third rounds (2011–2015)
Sixteen first round games are played on the Thursday following the NCAA's selection of the teams. The remaining sixteen games are played Friday. Thursday's winners play in eight second round games on Saturday, followed by Friday's winners playing in the remaining eight second round games on Sunday. Thus, after the first weekend, 16 teams remain, commonly called the "Sweet Sixteen."
Before the 2002 tournament, all teams playing at a first- or second-round site fed into the same regional tournament. Since 2002, the tournament has used the "pod system" 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.
From 2011 to 2015, the round after the "First Four", which consists of 32 games and is normally played on either Thursday or Friday, was called the "second round". The next round, consisting of 16 games normally played on Saturday and Sunday, was called the "third round" during this time. In 2016, the former nomenclature of the "first round" for the round of 64 and "second round" for the round of 32 was restored.
Regional semifinals and finals
The teams which are still alive after the first weekend advance to the regional semifinals (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). Four regional semi-final games are played Thursday and four are played Friday. After Friday's games, 8 teams (the Elite Eight) remain. Saturday features two regional final games matching Thursday's winners and Sunday's two final games match Friday's winners. After the second weekend of the tournament, the four regional champions emerge as the "Final Four".
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 throughout its history. This is a breakdown of the history of the tournament format:
- 1939–1950: eight teams
- 1951–1952: 16 teams
- 1953–1974: varied between 22 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
- 2001–2010: 65 teams (with an opening round game to determine whether the 64th or 65th team plays in the first round)
- 2011-present 68 teams (four play-in games before the tournament, the nominal first round; branded as the First Four)
After the conclusion of the 2010 tournament, there was much speculation about increasing the tournament size to as many as 128 teams. On April 1, 2010, the NCAA announced that it was looking at expanding to 96 teams for 2011. On April 22, 2010, the NCAA announced a new television contract with CBS/Turner and that the field would expand to 68 teams, as opposed to the often speculated 96.
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. In 1970, South Carolina did not see any postseason play despite going 14-0 in the ACC and 25-3 overall when NC State won the ACC tournament and took the conference's only tournament bid. (The Carolina Coliseum was hosting the East Regional of the NCAA tournament, meaning South Carolina could not go to the NIT either.) In the 1971 season, USC was ranked #2 in the country with its only losses coming against conference rival and #1 ranked UCLA, so USC could not go to the tournament. In 1974, NC State and Maryland, both in the ACC, were ranked #2 and #3 respectively. They met in an ACC title game that NC State won in overtime, gaining the ACC's only tournament bid. NC State went on to win the NCAA tournament.
March Madness and history of the term
March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March, especially those conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and various state high school associations. 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 before joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts. The phrase had not already become associated with the college tournament when an Illinois official wrote in 1939 that "A little March Madness [may] contribute to sanity." March Madness is also a registered trademark, now owned exclusively by the NCAA. 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 describe a basketball tournament. 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, Indiana, 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.
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. (This domain name is currently being used to redirect into the main NCAA.com web site.)
Later during the 2000s, the IHSA relinquished its ownership share in the trademark, although it retained the right to use the term in association with high school championships. During October 2010, the NCAA reached a settlement with Intersport, paying $17.2 million for the latter company's license to use the trademark.
Championship trophies and other honors
The NABC Championship TrophyNCAA-style trophies for various sports as seen at UCLA. 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. One exception to the tradition of head coaches cutting down the last strand was in 2013, when Louisville's head coach Rick Pitino gave this honor to Kevin Ware, a guard who had suffered a catastrophic leg injury during the tournament. (Louisville would later be stripped of this title after the NCAA determined that a team staffer had paid to provide adult entertainment to several players, rendering them ineligible under NCAA rules.)
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 wooden NCAA National Championship trophy. The loser of the championship game receives a silver plated National Runner-Up trophy for second place. The champions also receive a commemorative gold championship ring. The other three Final Four teams receive silver runner-up or Final Four rings.
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, similar to the crystal football presented to the winner of the Bowl Championship Series by the American Football Coaches Association, to the top-ranked team in its end-of-season coaches' poll, which is invariably the same as the NCAA championship game winner. During the mid-2000s, this award was named the Siemens Trophy after its title sponsor at the time. Sometimes confused with the NCAA's own trophy, the NABC trophy is in fact presented separately at a press conference the day after the game, although it used to be presented right after the standard NCAA championship trophy.
From 1969 to 1981, partial coverage of the NCAA tournament aired on NBC.
In 1982, CBS obtained broadcast television rights to the NCAA tournament. That same year, ESPN began showing the opening rounds of the 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 still does not) have regional affiliates, so the entire country had to watch the same game. Further, ESPN at the time did not have any of the cable affiliate channels it has now (ESPNU, ESPN2, ESPNEWS), which also limited its resources. (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 1991, CBS assumed responsibility for covering all games of the NCAA tournament, with the exception of the single Tuesday night opening round game. (The opening round 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. CBS and TNN were both owned by Viacom at the time.)
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. Since then, March Madness On Demand has been free to online users. The CBS broadcast provides the NCAA with over 500 million dollars annually, and makes up over 90% of the NCAA's annual revenue.
NCAA partner AT&T Mobility also broadcasts all games via the MobiTV infrastructure, which is available on phones compatible with AT&T's Mobile TV service. For the iPhone, a premium-charge application is available via the App Store to watch the games.
In addition, CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) had broadcast two "late early" games that would not otherwise be broadcast nationally. These were 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 is scheduled to continue broadcasting the official pregame and postgame shows and press conferences from the teams involved.
2010 and beyond: Joint CBS/Turner contract
On April 22, 2010, the NCAA took advantage of an opt-out clause in its 1999 deal with CBS to announce its intention to sign a new contract with CBS and Turner Sports, a division of TimeWarner. The new contract came amid serious consideration by the NCAA of expanding the tournament to 68 teams. It runs through 2024 and provides for the broadcast of all games of the tournament on national television for the first time in history. All First Four games will air on truTV. A featured second- or third-round game in each time "window" will be broadcast terrestrially on CBS, while all other games will be shown either on TBS, TNT or truTV. Sweet 16 (regional semifinal) games would be broadcast on CBS and TBS, while all games from the Elite Eight (regional final) onwards would be shown on CBS exclusively. Beginning in 2016, CBS and TBS would split coverage of the Elite Eight, while the two networks would alternate coverage of the Final Four and national championship game, with TBS getting the final two rounds in even numbered years, with CBS getting the games in odd numbered years. March Madness On Demand would remain unchanged, although Turner is allowed to develop their own service. The contract is expected to be signed after a review by the NCAA Board of Directors.
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 and analog 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. 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
In Europe, ESPN America simulcasts the NCAA tournament, including games shown on CBS College Sports, taking the suggested national feed.
In Canada, The Score simulcasts the CBS game coverage, but produces its own studio segments during the early rounds. The Score does not necessarily follow the CBS "national" selections, but rather airs what it deems to be the most interesting or relevant games to Canadian viewers. See also: List of NCAA Final Four BroadcastersIn Australia, the ONE HD network simulcasts the CBS game coverage in HD. ESPN Australia and ESPNHD Australia also simulcast CBS game coverage. As with the Canadian telecast, ONE HD only airs selected games during the later stages of the tournament.
The Division I Men's Basketball tournament is the only NCAA championship tournament (officially, the College Football Playoff National 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 Final Four and, prior to the 2008 tournament, the Play-in game). 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 prior to the Final Four (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 and 2009 tournaments, 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 in each season. 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 or Michigan State playing at Ford Field in Detroit in the 2009 Final Four) are mere quirks of scheduling and have been part of the tournament for years. Butler shared 2010 Final Four hosting duties at Lucas Oil Stadium in its home city of Indianapolis with the Horizon League. Dayton played (and won) a First Four game on its home court of UD Arena in 2015.
On the third weekend, traditionally a Saturday and Monday for the men's tournament and a Friday and Sunday 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 after 1981.
Final Four records
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.
There are 2^63 or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (9.2 quintillion) possibilities for the possible winners in a 64 team NCAA bracket, making the odds of randomly picking a perfect bracket (i.e. without weighting for seed number) 9.2 quintillion to 1. Many fans enter into office pools or private gambling-related contests as to who can get the most games correct.
See also: NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship records
The following teams entered the tournament ranked #1 in at least one of the AP, UPI, or USA Today polls and went on to win the tournament: Source: Final Four Record Book
Since the NCAA started seeding teams (1979), only once have all #1 seeds made it to the Final Four (National Semifinals):
- 2008 Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis (Memphis' season was later vacated by the NCAA due to use of an ineligible player)
The championship game has matched two #1 seeds only eight 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
- 2015 – Duke defeated Wisconsin
- 2017 – North Carolina defeated Gonzaga
At least one #1 seed has made the Final Four in every year except:
- 1980 -- Louisville - #2, Iowa - #5, Purdue - #6, UCLA - #8
- 2006 -- UCLA - #2, Florida - #3, LSU - #4, George Mason - #11
- 2011 – Connecticut (#3), Kentucky (#4), Butler (#8), VCU (#11)
The only team to beat three #1 seeds in a single tournament was #4 seed Arizona in 1997. The tournament structure makes it impossible to play a team from each one of the regions in a single tournament, in turn making it impossible to play all four #1 seeds in a single tournament.
- 2009 marked the first time in tournament history that all 12 of the 1, 2, and 3 seeds made it to the Sweet 16.
Lowest seeds to reach each round since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
- Second Round: #16 seed (1 time)
- UMBC in 2018
- Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen): #15 seed (2 times):
- Florida Gulf Coast in 2013
- Oral Roberts in 2021
- Regional Finals (Elite Eight): #12 seed:
- Missouri in 2002
- Oregon State in 2021
- National Semifinals (Final Four): #11 seed:
- LSU in 1986
- George Mason in 2006
- VCU in 2011
- Loyola–Chicago in 2018
- UCLA in 2021
- National Finals (Championship Game): #8 seed:
- Villanova in 1985
- Butler in 2011
- Kentucky in 2014
- National Champion: #8 seed:
- Villanova in 1985
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.
In another low-seed quirk, Houston, a #2 seed in 2021, became the first team ever to reach the Final Four by defeating only double-digit seeds—in order, Cleveland State (15), Rutgers (10), Syracuse (11), and Oregon State (12).
The first (and to date only) #16 seed to defeat a #1 seed since the field was expanded to 64 teams was UMBC, which defeated Virginia 74–54 in the first round in 2018. Others have come close; thirteen other #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, both in 1989. Only one #16 vs. #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 in a loss are:
- Fairleigh Dickinson lost to Michigan in 1985 (4 points, 59–55)
- Princeton lost to Georgetown in 1989 (1 point, 50–49)
- East Tennessee State lost to Oklahoma in 1989 (1 point, 72–71)
- Murray State lost to Michigan State in 1990 (4 points, 75–71 in OT)
- Western Carolina lost to Purdue in 1996 (2 points, 73–71, WCU missed a possible game-tying shot as time expired)
Biggest point-spread upsets since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
- Norfolk State +21.5 over Missouri 86–84 in 2012
- UMBC +20.5 over Virginia 74–54 in 2018
- Santa Clara +19.5 over Arizona 64–61 in 1993
- Coppin State +18.5 over South Carolina 78–65 in 1997
- Arkansas–Little Rock +17.5 over Notre Dame 90–83 in 1986
- Hampton +17.5 over Iowa State 58–57 in 2001
Biggest point-spread upsets in NCAA Championship Game history:
- Connecticut +9.5 over Duke, 77-74, in 1999
- Villanova +9 over Georgetown, 66-64, in 1985
- Kansas +8 over Oklahoma, 83-79, in 1988
- North Carolina State +7.5 over Houston, in 1983
- Texas Western +6.5 over Kentucky, in 1966
Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, each seed-pairing has played a total of 144 first-round games through the 2021 tournament, with the following results:
- The #1 seed is 143–1 against the #16 seed (99.31%).
- The #2 seed is 135–9 against the #15 seed (93.75%).
- The #3 seed is 122–22 against the #14 seed (84.72%).
- The #4 seed is 113–31 against the #13 seed (78.47%).
- The #5 seed is 93–51 against the #12 seed (64.58%).
- The #6 seed is 90–54 against the #11 seed (62.50%).
- The #7 seed is 87–57 against the #10 seed (60.41%).
- The #8 seed is 71–73 against the #9 seed (49.31%).
Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, the following results have occurred for each pairing:
- In the 1/16/8/9 bracket:
- The #1 seed is 57–14 against the #8 seed (80.28%).
- The #1 seed is 66–6 against the #9 seed (91.67%).
- The only 16 seed ever to win a first-round game, UMBC in 2018, lost its second-round game to 9 seed Kansas State, making the #16 seed 0–1 against #9.
- Note: The #8 vs. #16 pairing has yet to occur.
- In the 2/15/7/10 bracket:
- The #2 seed is 57–26 against the #7 seed (68.67%).
- The #2 seed is 34–18 against the #10 seed (65.38%).
- The #7 seed is 2-2 against the #15 seed (50%).
- The #10 seed is 5-0 against the #15 seed (100%).
- In the 3/14/6/11 bracket:
- The #3 seed is 45–29 against the #6 seed (60.81%).
- The #3 seed is 30–18 against the #11 seed (62.5%).
- The #6 seed is 14-2 against the #14 seed (87.5%).
- The #11 seed is 6-0 against the #14 seed (100%).
- In the 4/13/5/12 bracket:
- The #4 seed is 41–33 against the #5 seed (55.41%).
- The #4 seed is 26–13 against the #12 seed (66.67%).
- The #5 seed is 16–3 against the #13 seed (84.21%).
- The #12 seed is 9–3 against the #13 seed (75%).
Teams entering the tournament undefeated
See also: Perfect season
- In 1951, Columbia entered the tournament at 21-0, but lost in the first round to Illinois.
- 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 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 earlier in the season beaten UCLA in the first nationally-televised NCAA regular-season game, entered the tournament at 28-0. They made the Final Four, but lost twice—first to UCLA in a semifinal rematch, and then to Ohio State in the national third-place game—to finish 31–2. Also in 1968, St. Bonaventure University entered the tournament 22-0 and won their opening round game against Boston College. They lost a regional semi-final round game to North Carolina and a regional third-place game to Columbia University to finish 23-2.
- In 1971, two teams entered the tournament unbeaten:
- The Marquette Warriors (now known as Golden Eagles), coached by Al McGuire and led by Dean Meminger, entered the tournament with a record of 26–0. They were beaten by Ohio State 60–59 in the regional semi-finals and finished with a record of 28–1.
- The Penn Quakers also entered the tournament at 26–0, suffering a 90–47 blowout by Villanova in the regional final to also finish 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. Michigan State also had future NBA starters Jay Vincent and Greg Kelser on its roster to help Magic defeat Indiana State.
- In 1991, UNLV entered the tournament at 30–0 but lost in the Final Four to eventual champion Duke.
- Wichita State entered the 2014 tournament at 34–0, but was given an unusually tough regional draw for a #1 seed, with both finalists from the previous year's tournament (Louisville and Michigan) plus perennial powers Duke and Kentucky. The Shockers lost in the second round to Kentucky.
- The following year, Kentucky entered the tournament at 34–0, losing in the Final Four to Wisconsin.
- Gonzaga entered the 2021 tournament at 26–0, losing in the championship game to Baylor.
Teams finishing the regular season undefeated but not playing in the tournament
- In 1939, Long Island finished the season unbeaten, but chose to play in the second edition of the NIT instead of the first and only edition of the NABC tournament (which became the NCAA tournament the next year). The NIT, then held at the third Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, not far from LIU's Brooklyn campus, was generally considered more prestigious than the NCAA tournament until the mid-1950s.
- In 1940, Seton Hall was 19–0 after the regular season, but was not invited to the tournament.
- The next year, Milwaukee State, the predecessor to today's Milwaukee Panthers, finished 16–0 but went uninvited.
- In 1944, Army was unbeaten, but declined postseason invitations due to World War II.
- In 1954, Kentucky finished 25–0 but declined a tournament invitation. Kentucky had been banned from playing a competitive schedule the previous season due to NCAA sanctions stemming from a point shaving scandal earlier in that decade, and three of the Wildcats' starters had technically graduated at the end of that season and were ruled ineligible for the tournament.
- In 1973 the NC 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.
- In 1979, the Alcorn State Braves were not invited to the NCAA tournament despite a 27–0 record. They played in the NIT, losing in the second round to eventual NIT champion Indiana.
Teams entering the tournament with one 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 entered the tournament at 24–1, but without Russell and Jones, who had graduated two years earlier. 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 future Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, entered with one loss in 1970. Lanier would lead St. Bonaventure to a Final Four appearance, but would be unable to compete in the game, having suffered a leg injury in the Regional Championship victory over Villanova. St. Bonaventure lost to Jacksonville in the semi-final and to New Mexico State in the third-place game.
- Kentucky entered the 1970 tournament at 25-1, but lost in the Mideast Regional final to Jacksonville.
- NC 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.
- Marquette entered the 1976 tournament 25-1, and lost to undefeated and top-ranked Indiana 65-56 in the Mideast Regional final. The Warriors finished 27-2 and were ranked #2 in the final AP and UPI polls.
- 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.
- DePaul finished the regular season with a record of 26-1 in both 1980 and 1982. In 1980, the Blue Demons won their first 25 regular season games before falling in double overtime at rival Notre Dame. They entered the 1980 tournament as a #1 seed and lost in their first game to eventual runner-up UCLA. In the 1982 tournament they were again seeded #1 after having won their last 21 regular season games. They were defeated in their first game, this time by Boston College. This was the third consecutive year DePaul was a #1 seed and failed to win a game.
- 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 (1986, 1999), Illinois (2005), and Kansas (2008) and surpassed in 2008 by Memphis (38–2). However, Memphis's 2008 season was vacated for NCAA Violations, and the record reverted to the four named schools, with Gonzaga becoming another school with a 37-win season in 2017. In those years Duke, Illinois and Memphis all lost in the National Championship game (as would Gonzaga), while Kansas won.
- 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 Miss 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.
- UCLA entered the 1995 Tournament with a 25-2 record and won the tournament to finish the season at 31-2. However, an earlier regular-season loss to Cal was later forfeited, and UCLA's official record for the season is 32-1.
- UMass (35–1) in 1996 (later vacated) lost in the national semifinal to eventual champion Kentucky.
- Texas Tech entered the tournament with a 28-1 record in the 1996 (later vacated) lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Georgetown.
- Kansas entered the 1997 NCAA Tournament with a record of 32–1, but was beaten in the Sweet Sixteen by the eventual champion, Arizona.
- Princeton entered the 1998 tournament with a 26-1 record, but lost to Michigan State in the second round.
- 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, having only lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes 65-64 on a last-second game-winning shot by Matt Sylvester. 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. The Tigers' season, including its appearances in the tournament, was later vacated by the NCAA due to use of an ineligible player, Derrick Rose. Rose had been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse twice. The University of Memphis appealed the NCAA decision on vacating the season; however, the appeal was denied.
- Gonzaga entered the 2017 tournament at 32–1, losing to North Carolina in the national title game.
- Winthrop entered the 2021 tournament at 23–1, losing in the first round to Villanova.
Courts and venues
- Contrary to popular belief the winning team is not given the Final Four Court after winning the championship. They are, however, given the option to purchase the court. If the winning school declines to purchase the court other schools are contacted about purchasing the used court which would be repainted and shipped to the purchasing school.
- The NCAA has banned the Bi-Lo Center and Colonial Life Arena 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 (now Colonial Life Arena), which was built for purposes of hosting the tournament, were banned from hosting any future tournament events. This ban would be lifted when the battle flag was removed from the capitol grounds in 2015.
- 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 Metrodome. Additionally, since the NCAA's headquarters are in Indianapolis, the Final Four is held in that city every five years, first at the RCA Dome, and since 2010 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Starting in 2007, identical courts were used at the sites of the Regionals, eventually leading to all tournament games using identical courts starting in 2010. Since 1986, a specially designed court is also used at the Final Four.
Since the inception of the modern Final Four in 1952, 11 teams have played the Final Four in their home states through the 2021 tournament. Kentucky (1958), UCLA (1968, 1972, 1975) and North Carolina State (1974) won the national title; Louisville (1959) and Purdue (1980) lost in the Final Four; and California (1960), Duke (1994), Michigan State (2009) and Butler (2010) lost in the final.
The biggest advantage was in 1959 when Louisville played at its regular home of Freedom Hall; however, they lost to West Virginia in the semifinals. The following year, Cal had nearly as large an edge, as they only had to cross San Francisco Bay to play in the Final Four at the Cow Palace in Daly City; the Golden Bears lost in the championship game to Ohio State. UCLA had a similar advantage in 1968 and 1972 when it advanced to the Final Four at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, not many miles from the Bruins' homecourt of Pauley Pavilion (and also UCLA's home arena before the latter venue opened in 1965, as well as the 2011–12 season during Pauley Pavilion renovations); unlike Louisville and Cal, the Bruins won the national title on both occasions. Butler lost the 2010 title 6 miles (9.7 km) from its Indianapolis campus.
Before the Final Four was established, the East and West regionals were held at separate sites, with the winners advancing to the title game. During that era, three teams, all from Manhattan, played in the East Regional at Madison Square Garden—frequently used as a "big-game" venue by each team—and advanced at least to the national semifinals. NYU won the East Regional in 1945 but lost in the title game, also held at the Garden, to Oklahoma A&M. CCNY played in the East Regional in both 1947 and 1950; the Beavers lost in the 1947 East final to eventual champion Holy Cross but won the 1950 East Regional and national titles at the Garden.
In 1974, NC State won the NCAA tournament without leaving their home state, North Carolina. The team was put in the East Region, and played its regional games at home arena Reynolds Coliseum. NC State played the final four and national championship games at nearby Greensboro Coliseum.
While not their home state, Kansas has played in the championship game in Kansas City, Missouri, only 45 minutes from their campus in Lawrence, Kansas a total of four times. In 1940, 1953, and 1957 they lost the championship game each time at Municipal Auditorium. In 1988 they won the championship over Oklahoma at Kemper Arena (now Hy-Vee Arena).
- 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 115 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.
- Overtime games in a championship game:
- North Carolina 54, Kansas 53/3OT (1957)
- Utah 42, Dartmouth 50/OT (1944)
- Cincinnati 65, Ohio St. 60/OT (1961)
- Loyola 60, Cincinnati 58/OT (1963)
- Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79/OT (1989)
- Arizona 84, Kentucky 79/OT (1997)
- Kansas 75, Memphis 68/OT (2008)
- Virginia 85, Texas Tech 77/OT (2019)
- 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)
- Largest margin of victory in a championship game: 30 points
- UNLV 103, Duke 73 (1990)
- Margin of 10 points: Oregon (1939), Indiana (1981), UCLA (1967, 1970, 1973), Michigan State (1979, 2000), Duke (2001), North Carolina (2009), and Villanova (2018) are teams to win every game in the tournament by 10 points or more on their way to a championship.
Top 5 largest tournament point differentials by championship teams
- Teams that played 6 games
- 1996 Kentucky +129
- 2016 Villanova +124
- 2009 North Carolina +121
- 1990 UNLV +112
- 2018 Villanova +106
- Teams that played 5 games
- 1963 Loyola–Chicago +115
- 1981 Indiana +113
- 1979 Michigan State +104
- 1955 San Francisco +69
- 1976 Indiana +66
Champions that missed the tournament the following year
Nine times in the history of the tournament, the reigning champion failed to make the tournament field the following year.
Kentucky failed to qualify for the 1979 NCAA tournament after having won the 1978 title. The Wildcats lost in the first round of the NIT to Clemson.
In 1980, neither 1979 champion Michigan State nor runner-up Indiana State qualified for the tournament. Additionally, neither was invited to the NIT; Michigan State was also the only defending NCAA champion to finish with a losing record (12–15).
In 1987 the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals finished the season with a record of 18-14 and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The team refused an invitation to the postseason National Invitation Tournament.
In 1989, the Kansas Jayhawks were barred from defending their 1988 title after having been placed on probation for recruiting violations. This is the only time a champion has been prevented from defending their crown due to NCAA sanctions. The 1989 Jayhawks, in Roy Williams' first year, finished the season with a 19-12 record and a sixth-place finish in the Big Eight, culminating with a first-round loss in the Big Eight tournament; it is unlikely that they would have received an at-large invitation given that profile even had they not been barred from the competition.
In 2008, both of the 2007 finalists, Florida 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 and went on to miss the tournament the next year as well, but Ohio State defeated UMass in the Championship Game to win the tournament.
In 2010 the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels finished the regular season with a record of 16-16 and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2003 season, but was invited to the 2010 postseason National Invitation Tournament, in which it reached the finals, but lost to Dayton.
In 2013, defending champion Kentucky went 21–11 and failed to make the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats went to the NIT, losing to Robert Morris in the first round.
The most recent defending champion to fail to make the tournament is UConn in 2015, which went 20–14. The Huskies accepted an NIT bid, losing in the first round to Arizona State.
Main article: List of NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Champions For non-NCAA championships claimed by schools, see Mythical national championship and Helms Athletic Foundation.
|Duke||5||1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015|
|Indiana||5||1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987|
|Kansas||3||1952, 1988, 2008|
|Kentucky||8||1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012|
|Michigan State||2||1979, 2000|
|NC State||2||1974, 1983|
|North Carolina||6||1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2017|
|Oklahoma State (Oklahoma A&M)||2||1945, 1946|
|San Francisco||2||1955, 1956|
|UCLA||11||1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995|
|UConn||4||1999, 2004, 2011, 2014|
|UTEP (Texas Western)||1||1966|
|Villanova||3||1985, 2016, 2018|
- Louisville won the 2013 title on the court, but that title was vacated after the NCAA found that a program staffer had paid to provide adult entertainment for several players on the championship team, rendering them ineligible under NCAA rules.
Two coaches currently active in Division I have won multiple titles: Mike Krzyzewski with five titles and Jay Wright with two. Another coach with multiple D-I titles, three-time championship coach Jim Calhoun, is currently coaching in NCAA Division III.
Current Iona coach Rick Pitino has been to the Final Four with three different teams: Providence in 1987, Kentucky in 1996 and 1997, and Louisville in 2005. Two additional Final Four appearances with Louisville, in 2012 and 2013, were vacated due to violations of NCAA rules.
Former UCLA head coach John Wooden has the most with 10 national championships (1964, 1965, 1967–1973, 1975), followed by Mike Krzyzewski with 5 at Duke (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015), Adolph Rupp with 4 at Kentucky (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), and three coaches with 3 titles each: Bob Knight at Indiana (1976, 1981, 1987), Jim Calhoun at UConn (1999, 2004, 2011), and Roy Willams at North Carolina (2005, 2009, 2017).
The following schools have had more than one head coach win an NCAA title:
- Kentucky, 5 — Adolph Rupp (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), Joe B. Hall (1978), Rick Pitino (1996), Tubby Smith (1998), John Calipari (2012)
- Kansas, 3 — Phog Allen (1952), Larry Brown (1988), Bill Self (2008)
- North Carolina, 3 — Frank McGuire (1957), Dean Smith (1982, 1993), Roy Williams (2005, 2009, 2017)
- Indiana, 2 — Branch McCracken (1940, 1953), Bob Knight (1976, 1981, 1987)
- Michigan State, 2 — Jud Heathcote (1979), Tom Izzo (2000)
- NC State, 2 — Norm Sloan (1974), Jim Valvano (1983)
- UCLA, 2 — John Wooden (1964, 1965, 1967–1973, 1975), Jim Harrick (1995)
- UConn, 2 – Jim Calhoun (1999, 2004, 2011), Kevin Ollie (2014)
- Villanova, 2 – Rollie Massimino (1985), Jay Wright (2016, 2018)
Future host cities
The Final Four hosts have been announced through 2026.
- 2022: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
- 2023: NRG Stadium, Houston
- 2024: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
- 2025: Alamodome, San Antonio
- 2026: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
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