March Madness 2021 schedule: Selection Sunday, Final Four, tournament dates
Last March, as teams were either finishing up or just starting their conference tournament runs, COVID-19 brought the college basketball world to a screeching halt. The ACC, SEC and several other conferences had only played their first couple of tournament games before the rest of the tournaments were canceled out of an abundance of caution.
The pandemic forced the annual NCAA Tournament to be canceled, so no national champion was declared for the first time since the tournament began in 1939.
On Nov. 25, though, the 2020-21 college basketball season will tip off, and you can bet the NCAA will be eager to get March Madness played this year. Last year, not having the tournament led to a huge revenue loss for the NCAA, so if it can safely be played this spring, it will be.
Here’s a look at the current schedule for the tournament, starting with Selection Sunday and ending with the National Championship Game:
- Selection Sunday: March 14
- First Four: March 16-17
- First Round: March 18-19
- Second Round: March 20-21
- Sweet 16: March 25-26
- Elite Eight: March 27-28
- Final Four (national semifinals): April 3
- National Championship: April 5
The First Four, as always, is scheduled to be held in Dayton. First- and second-round tournament host sites are: Boise, Idaho; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; Lexington, Kentucky; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Jose, California; and Wichita, Kansas.
The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds will be held in Denver, Minneapolis, Brooklyn and Memphis, with the Final Four and National Championship set for Indianapolis.
Since the tournament wasn’t played last season, the Virginia Cavaliers are still the reigning national champions. Under coach Tony Bennett, the Cavaliers beat Texas Tech in the final after knocking out Bruce Pearl’s Auburn team in controversial fashion in the semifinals. Who could forget the critical foul called on Samir Doughty, giving Kyle Guy 3 free throws for the win:
Gene Steratore breaks down the crucial foul call. pic.twitter.com/qFyetJmt59
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 7, 2019
Last year, no bracket was ever revealed, so we don’t know who would have been the No. 1 seeds in the tournament. The top 4 teams in the final AP Poll of the season, released on March 18 after everything was shut down, were:
- Florida State
Kansas lost Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike to the NBA Draft. Gonzaga lost Filip Petrusev to a pro league in Serbia and Killian Tillie to the draft. Dayton lost Player of the Year Obi Toppin to the draft. Florida State lost Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell, both of whom could be first-round picks.
The first AP Poll of the 2020-21 season had these teams in the top 4:
This season, nonconference play will look a lot different. For example, the Maui Invitational will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, instead of Hawaii. Many teams will participate in MTEs (Multi-Team Events) instead of the big-name preseason tournaments.
This year promises to be full of twists and turns. Teams are already dealing with positive COVID-19 tests and having to pull out of events. The key to getting the season finished will be patience. Leagues are trying to build as much flexibility into schedules as possible, so hopefully, things can go off as smoothly as possible.
Still, while the dates above are locked in for now for the tournament, don’t be shocked if they change as we flip our calendars to 2021. This is an NCAA Tournament the NCAA can’t afford to lose, so if the season has to drag on further into April (or possibly even into May), there will be plenty of financial motivation to make sure a champion is crowned this year.