NCAA March Madness 2021: What is Selection Sunday in College Basketball?

Published 02/26/2021, 4:00 PM EST

Every year the NCAA organizes a March Madness tournament that brings together the top teams across the nation to compete at the grandest stage in college basketball.


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But how does the association filter out teams and invited only a limited number of schools to participate in the NCAA tournament? 

There is an extensive process behind it, which is called ‘Selection Sunday’. The NCAA Men’s Division I basketball committee is responsible for determining the teams that make the cut, but before we dive into that, here’s a vital piece of information: 


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When is Selection Sunday 2021: The 2021 edition is on March 14th, which is the second Sunday of the month. 

What time is it and will it be televised: Selection Sunday 2021 will begin at 6 PM ET and will be broadcasted on CBS. 

March Madness: What is Selection Sunday and how does it work?

Here’s a simple fact on how the March Madness tournament is hosted every year. There are 68 teams that compete in single-elimination games.

A total of 67 games are played throughout the tournament, including the National Championship which concludes the entire event. 

Now from the 68 teams, 32 of them are conference champions who receive automatic bids to compete in March Madness. These are teams that win their respective conference tournaments and gain direct entry to the NCAA tournament. 

Feb 2, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats forward Davion Bradford (21) dunks against Kansas Jayhawks guard Dajuan Harris (3) during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

This is a straightforward decision, but the fate of the other 36 teams remains in the hands of the selection committee. The 10-member selection committee is comprised of athletic directors and conference commissioners, and all of them serve 5-year terms. 

A major part also includes a member of the committee walking out of the room when teams from his/her respective conference are being discussed to avoid allegations of tampering.

The day when the committee picks the remaining 36 teams to complete the tournament is called Selection Sunday.

The selection committee plays a major role in determining the teams and the bracket

The selection committee holds the authority to pick the remaining 36 teams based on their performance during the regular season. These are at-large bids, and teams that did well during the regular season will be the recipients.

The committee has the power to award an at-large berth to more than one team from a single conference. There are several metrics that the committee has in mind while picking these teams and since 2018, they’ve been NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) to award at-large bids and create the championship bracket.


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Teams that did well during the regular-season tournament receive wild-card berths to the NCAA tournament. It doesn’t matter if they lost the conference tournament. The selection committee evaluates a team’s complete regular-season performance and awards them a spot if deemed eligible. 

The seeding of teams and the creation of a championship bracket takes place once all teams are fixed. 


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Arjun Athreya

1810 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.