March Madness: What it is & How it Works (Full Guide)

Our college basketball expert @SidekicksPicks breaks down everything March Madness so you can go into the tournament armed with all the information you need to bet with confidence.

He breaks down how teams get selected, the tournament format, the most successful teams/conferences and key betting trends.

What is March Madness?

March Madness, for a college basketball fan, is the greatest time of the year! It is an all conference, single elimination tournament to declare an ultimate winner and the best team in the country. The 64-team NCAA tournament will tip off in the middle of March and will last through the beginning of April.

How are Teams Selected for the Tournament

There are 64 teams that will compete in the tournament from all over the country and from different conferences. Next week, conference tournaments will start and the NCAA bracket will start to fill up. The winner of each conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the “Big Dance.” There are 32 division 1 conferences in college basketball, so we will receive an automatic 32 teams to enter the tournament.

The main purpose of this process is to include mid-major programs that may not receive the attention or respect as the larger conferences. For the majority of these conferences, this is their only chance to punch their ticket to the tournament.

The remaining 32 teams will receive an “at-large bid” and are selected by strength of schedule, overall record, quality wins and “bad” losses. You will see more teams in the tournament from larger conferences because of the quality opponents they play and the fact that the main purpose of the tournament is to find the best team in the country.

These teams will be revealed on “Selection Sunday,” March 13th at 6 pm ET.

You can keep up to date with which teams, including your own, are projected to participate in the tournament on Haslametrics.com.

Tournament Format

The bracket is divided into 4 regions; East, West, Midwest, and South. There are 16 teams in each region. The 1 seed will face the 16th seed, 2nd will face the 15th seed, etc. There are also 4 play in games that will be determined at a later date.

There are 6 rounds to the tournament, not including the play in games.

  • Round 1 - 64 teams
  • Round 2 - 32 teams
  • Round 3 - 16 teams (Sweet 16)
  • Round 4 - 8 teams (Elite 8)
  • Round 5 - 4 teams (Final 4)
  • Round 6 - 2 teams (Championship Game)

Teams with the Most NCAA Championships

March Madness

Conferences with the Most Championships

March Madness

March Madness Betting Trends

  • Favorites typically dominate the Final Four Semifinals
  • Only one 1 seed has ever lost in the 1st round
  • The 1 seeds win at least two games 86% of the time
  • The 1 seeds cover the spread if it’s less than 20 points in the first round
  • The 7 seeds beat the 10 seeds (60.7%)
  • If a 10 seed advance to the 2nd round, 42.9% advance to the 3rd round
  • If a team wins a play in game, they typically advance to the 2nd round
  • 8 seeds beat 9 seeds 48.5% of the time. 8 seeds have a greater chance to advance to the 3rd round than an 8 seed (8 seeds - 19.5% advance to 3rd round. 9 seeds - 9.7% advance to the 3rd round)
  • Underdogs between the 8th and the 9ths seed have covered 26 of the last 44 games
  • 11 seeds are .500 against 6 seeds in the tournament (22-22 since 2011)
  • 13 seeds have a 20.7% chance to advance to the 2nd round (31-113 since 2011)
  • Boise State (0-7), Nebraska (0-7), Belmont (0-8) and Eastern Kentucky (0-8) have never won a tournament game
  • Gonzaga is 12-0 in the first round

Stay Tuned for More!

Our college basketball experts will be back with more great March Madness content as the tournament approaches and daily picks throughout the tournament!

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