The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is just a few days away as the best teams in the US collegiate system get set to battle for the title.
Also known appropriately as March Madness, the 2022 edition gets underway with the first games on March 15 and will conclude with the national championship final on April 4.
With games coming thick and fast all across the country, here is a breakdown of the March Madness schedule and what each round represents.
Selection Sunday – March 13
Before a ball is bounced, the 12-member Selection Committee first convenes to decide which teams will comprise the 68-team tournament. The 32 Division I conference champions all receive automatic picks, so the committee’s job is to choose which other 36 teams will also be taking part in March Madness.
The remaining teams are selected by using various criteria including stats and rankings from the regular and post-season but there is no set formula. Once the selection committee has finalized the 68, each team will receive a seeding from No 1 to 68.
First Four – March 15-16
Based on those seedings issued by the selection committee, the four-lowest seeded automatic bids and four-lowest selected seeds will compete in the First Four tournament, which this year will return to the UD Arena in Dayton Ohio on March 15 and 16.
Among those eight teams, they are seeded from 1-8, with the top seeds being normally the ones ranking higher in the NCAA March Madness odds.
They play the bottom seeds, No 2 facing No 7, and so on. The four winners of those head-to-head matches will then take their places in the 64-team main draw tournament.
First and Second Round – March 17-20
This is where the tournament proper gets underway, and like the First Four round, it is all single-game eliminator, so one defeat and the team is out of March Madness.
There are eight host locations for the first and second rounds. First round games at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York; Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana; Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas; and Moda Center in Portland, Oregon will all take place on March 17, with the second-round games scheduled for Match 19.
Meanwhile, first round games at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina; Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Viejas Arena in San Diego, California will be played on March 18 and the second round on March 20.
Sweet 16 and Elite Eight – March 24-27
Now March Madness enters the business end of the competition, with 16 teams competing in the Sweet 16 (obviously) and the winners progressing to the Elite Eight – or quarterfinals.
The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight stages will be held at four different locations spread across four days. On March 24, Sweet 16 games will be played at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas; and Chase Center in San Francisco, California, with the Elite Eight Games scheduled for March 26. Also hosting Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games will be United Center in Chicago, Illinois; and Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Those games will be played on March 25 (Sweet 16) and March 27 (Elite Eight).
Final Four – April 2
After coming through four rounds (potentially five if a First Four team can make a miraculous run), only four teams will remain in March Madness.
The Final Four is one of the most anticipated days in American sports, and will this year be held on April 2. Both games will be played at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Championship game – April 4
This is what it all comes down to; a frenetic few weeks of college basketball culminates in the championship game as two teams battle to be crowned the winners of March Madness and with it, the right to call themselves the best college team in the United States.
The 2022 March Madness championship game will take place on April 4 and like the Final Four, will also be played at Caesars Superdome.
Who are the early favorites?
With the schedule all laid out for the 2022 NCAA Basketball Tournament, which teams are expected to make it to the Final Four and beyond?
Well, last season’s runners-up Gonzaga Bulldogs are tipped to go one step further and get their hands on the trophy. The Bulldogs are the projected No 1 seeds and are the bookmakers favorites.
However, they will face stiff competition from the likes of the Auburn Tigers, Duke Blue Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers, Kentucky Wildcats, and Kansas Jayhawks. But don’t discount reigning champions Baylor Bears who are finding form at just the right time.
Whichever team ultimately takes the crown, basketball fans better get braced for an intense, non-stop few weeks of action. It’s called March Madness for a reason!