Building the bracket
Step one: Initial Ballot
At the beginning of selection week, each committee member receives an "initial ballot" comprised of two columns listing all eligible Division I teams in alphabetical order. Each committee member will submit the ballot by Wednesday afternoon, the first full day of selection meetings. The committee members may select up to 36 teams as at-large teams. These are teams the individual member believes are “locks” to make the tournament, regardless of any other results. There is no minimum to the number of teams the committee may select as at-large teams on the initial ballot. The committee also selects an unlimited number of teams that merit consideration for the tournament. However, these teams should only be those that the committee member strongly feels might be one of the 36 best teams to fill the at-large berths.
Step two: Selections
Based on the results of the initial ballot, teams will move into the at-large field if they receive all but two eligible votes. The number of votes needed is generally eight but since committee members can’t vote for their own team, there are situations where a team will only need seven votes to be voted into the at-large pool based on the initial ballot. Teams receiving at least three votes earn placement on the Under Consideration board. It is from this list that committee members select teams into the at-large field.
Step three: Seeding
The committee will take teams that have been voted into the tournament as at-large teams, or have earned the automatic qualifier from their conference, and vote on teams (four at a time) to seed list. The top four teams on the first seeding vote make up the initial one line (the four No. 1 seeds). The committee will switch back and forth between selecting and seeding teams throughout the week. Ultimately, the committee will create a seed list -- 1 through 68 -- which serves as a rank order of all of the teams in the field. Once that seed list is finished (the committee will spend several hours making sure each team is in the proper spot on the list), the committee is ready to begin the next step in the process.
Step four: Bracketing
The seed list reflects the sequential order with which teams will be placed in the bracket. Once finalized, the seed list remains unchanged while the bracket is assembled. Sixteen levels are established (i.e., the seeds, Nos. 1 through 16) in the bracket that cross the four regions, permitting evaluation of four teams simultaneously on the same level. A top priority for the committee is to achieve reasonable competitive balance in each region of the bracket. The committee will then go through the seed list, placing all teams by seed starting with the four No. 1 seeds, through the No. 4 seeds (which make up the top 16 teams on the seed list), and place those geographically by region while using the principles and procedures for bracketing. Then the committee will go back and assign those top 16 teams to the closest geographical site hosting second- and third-round games, and from there assign all 68 teams based on the principles.