NCAA Tournament 2021: Round-by-Round Dates and Schedule Info

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2021

Michigan players celebrate after defeating Michigan State in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan clinched the Big Ten title. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

If it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, men's college basketball fans will be bursting at the seams with excitement for the 2021 NCAA tournament.

Last season, the tournament had to be canceled, so there's a lot of built-up energy for everyone that needs to be released and there's no better way to do that than filling out brackets and cheering for the home team.

Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Loyola of Chicago (Missouri Valley) and Morehead State (Ohio Valley) have already clinched their berths in the tourney after winning their respective conference tournaments, and more automatic qualifiers will follow suit this week.

Then there's Selection Sunday, when all 68 teams that have officially punched their ticket to March Madness will be announced.

Here's a quick look the important dates and data points for this year's Big Dance.


2021 NCAA Tournament Schedule

Selection Sunday: March 14

First Four: March 18

First round: March 19-20

Second round: March 21-22

Sweet 16: March 27-28

Elite Eight: March 29-30

Final Four: April 3

National Championship: April 5


March Madness TV Schedule

First Four: TBS, truTV

First and second rounds: CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV

Sweet 16 and Elite Eight: CBS, TBS

Final Four and national championship: CBS


Round-by-Round Breakdown

First 4

For safety reasons, the NCAA rolled out a litany of changes to the usual format for the 2021 men's basketball championship.

The biggest change is that all 67 games will be played in Indiana.

That means that instead of teams facing off in various sports arenas all over the continental United States, they'll be confined to the Indianapolis area.

All games will be played on either one of two courts at Lucas Oil Stadium or Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena (West Lafayette) or Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington).

A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the games, up to 25 percent, so the atmosphere won't be as electric as in years past, but fans should still descend into March Madness while cheering on their teams and watching Cinderella teams bust brackets.

Fortunately, the First Four format hasn't changed. The No. 65 and No. 66 overall teams will play each other, as well as the No. 67 and No. 68 overall teams. The other two games will feature the last four at-large teams.

The committee's overall goal was to try and keep the S-curve bracketing option for placing teams.

"In a normal year, bracketing is done with consideration given to keeping as many teams as close to their campus as possible, reducing team travel and providing as many fans as possible an opportunity to watch their favorite teams participate in The Big Dance," Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball said in a statement. "But this year only, with the entire tournament being played in Indiana, the committee believes this different approach is optimal."

The First Four can be a breeding ground for Cinderella. Back in 2011, Virginia Commonwealth University took an at-large bid all the way to the Final Four, when they were felled by Butler.

That run by VCU is still considered one of the best Cinderella runs in NCAA tournament history.


1st and 2nd Rounds

After the field is down to 64 teams, the first round will take place on March 21 and 22, with 16 games scheduled for each day. There will then be eight second-round games on both March 23 and 24.

Once the field has been whittled down to 64 teams, the first round will kick off March 19 and close out on March 20. There will be 16 games played each day.

The committee will try to avoid setting up rematches of nonconference regular-season games in the first round.

However, teams from the same conference can play each other in the second round if they didn't face each other more than once in the regular season or conference tournament.

The second round will feature eight games on March 21 and March 22.


Sweet 16 and Elite 8

With the stakes higher in the regional semifinals, teams from the same conference can play each other.

For the Sweet 16, four games will be played on March 27 and March 28.

The winners will advance to the Elite Eight to play another two games on March 29 and March 30.


Final 4 and National Championship

The Final Four will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, on April 3, followed by the national championship on April 5.

College basketball fans should be familiar with the venue, as it has previously hosted the Final Four in 2010 and 2015.

"In order to go from a football field to the basketball court, it takes a lot of planning, and normally this would go on over the course of years," Lucas Oil Stadium director Eric Neuburger told Lauren Kostiuk of WTHR 13. "This time we are kind of going back to our roots when we would host the Final Four at the Hoosier Dome or RCA Dome, and it would be on one half of the football field. So that's what we are trying to recreate here."


March Madness Prediction

The biggest part of the excitement of the NCAA tournament is its unpredictability.

Teams no one has ever heard of on the national stage beat all odds and topple storied programs to bust brackets every year.

But there are always those teams that are just too good to fail.

Even though no one can fill out their brackets yet, teams like Michigan, Gonzaga and Villanova look like they could be early favorites to be the last squad standing.

Still, it would be great if Cinderella could manage to stick around until the last game is played.