The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship is a single elimination tournament held each spring featuring 65 college basketball teams. Known as March Madness or the Big Dance, the tournament takes place over three weeks at sites across the United States, and the national semifinals (the Final Four) have become one of the nation's most prominent sporting events.
Since its 1939 inception it has built a legacy that includes dynasty teams and dramatic underdog stories. In recent years, friendly wagering on the event has become something of a national pastime, spawning countless office pools that attract expert fans and novices alike. The tournament bracket is made up of 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 RPI data.
Four low-seeded teams (typically teams with poor records that qualified by winning their conference tournament championships) compete in the first round games to determine which will advance into the second round of the tournament, with the winner advancing to play the top seed in one of the four regions. The opening Round game was added in 2001 and has been played in University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio each subsequent year. Even though the opening round is technically considered part of the tournament, it is often referred to as a "play-in" game.
What are Sessions and Strips?
In the first two weekends of the tournament, games are broken into two-game “Sessions.” Sessions 1 and 2 are played on either Thursday or Friday finishing with Session 3 on Saturday or Sunday. The arena is cleared between Sessions 1 and 2 with several hours in between. A “full strip” includes a ticket to all 3 sessions, a total of six games. The second weekend of the tournament is known as the “Sweet 16” and “Elite 8” rounds. The survivors of these rounds advance to the Final Four to determine the National Champion. The Final Four is made up of only two sessions, the semi-finals and the final and a full strip for the Final Four includes tickets to 3 games. The semi-finals are played on Saturday and the final is played on the following Monday.