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Men's Basketball Selections 101 - Bracket

Building the Bracket

Step One: Initial Ballot

At the beginning of selection week, each committee member casts an "initial ballot" composed 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. The committee member 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. Regular-season conference champions that do not make it to the at-large field on the initial ballot are automatically placed 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. A top priority for the committee is to achieve reasonable competitive balance in each region of the bracket. This is accomplished by adding up the true seed number for the 16 teams that comprise the top four teams in each of the four regions. 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, and place those geographically by region while using the principles and procedures for bracketing.

Following a process that began in 2017, the committee will contact any school that will be in discussion for the overall No. 1 seed to gauge its preferred first- and second-round and regional sites.

Then the committee seeds the first 16 teams by region. Once that is complete, committee members go back to the top (the overall No. 1 seed) and seed by first- and second-round sites and do that for all 68 teams using the bracketing principles and procedures.

Did You Know?

Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional final if they played each other three or more times during the regular season and conference tournament.

Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional semifinals if they played each other twice during the regular season and conference tournament.

Teams from the same conference may play each other as early as the third round if they played no more than once during the regular season and conference tournament.

Any principle can be relaxed if two or more teams from the same conference are among the last four at-large teams selected to the field to participate in the First Four.

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