The NCAA March Madness tournament will return this season with an unorthodox structure. There have been significant modifications to the regular format of the NCAA College schedule to provide a safe and competitive environment amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
That majority of the madness will take place in one location - Indianapolis, Indiana. The Final Four will be played inside two courts in Lucas Oil Stadium. Meanwhile, the earlier rounds are scheduled to occur in the following nearby locations: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
Below will be a breakdown of the full tournament schedule, along with key dates and start times, and the update for the new March Madness bracket structure. *Note that NCAA has stated that all March Madness dates are tentative because of changing conditions brought about by COVID-19.
2021 March Madness: Complete schedule, dates
Due to all teams being located in the same vicinity, there will be some notable changes to the start times from the traditional schedule.
The Selection Sunday will still happen on a Sunday, so things are not yet getting out of hand, but the first four play-in games will happen on Thursday rather than the typical Tuesday and Wednesday split. This change will have a ripple effect on the rest of the tournament.
Here is the complete schedule:
NCAA March Madness 2021: Bracket seeding
The NCAA Men's College Basketball Committee selects the teams that qualify for the tournament and their seeds. Teams are typically ranked with considerations for their geography.
However, with all games in Indiana, geography no longer needs to be considered, so the NCAA is implementing a new system to decide a team's placement in this year's March Madness Bracket.
The top four seeds will be decided in the same structure, and the First Four play-in teams will also remain the same. Where we will start to see the changes are in seedings two though 15. From there, the NCAA will use their new bracketing system that is called the "S-curve." It is a process that avoids having teams who have played each other three or more times playing each other again before the regional tournament.
Here is what NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, Dan Gavitt, had to say about the tournaments new seeding structure:
"It became clear that the S-curve bracketing option makes the most sense. In a normal year, bracketing is done with consideration given to keeping as many teams as close to their campus as possible. But this year only, with the entire tournament being played in Indiana, the committee believes this different approach is optimal."
NCAA March Madness 2021: Teams to watch
Given all the unpredictable events that have taken place this college basketball season, the March Madness tournament will be unlike anything seen before.
With the typical college basketball blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State, and even Kansas playing below their standard, it has opened up room for smaller schools outside the power five conferences.
Teams like the Boise State Broncos, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, and the San Diego State Aztecs have entered the discussions surrounding the favorites from the national championship.
Asides from the two current undefeated schools, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears, teams to keep an eye out for when filling out your NCAA March Madness Brackets would be the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Illinois is currently second in the Big Ten conference and could likely bump up to number one before the regular season ends. They have two players, Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, who are in contention for this year's John Wooden award and have shown that they can beat anybody in the nation.
If it were not for the upset loss to the Marylands Terrapins back in January, the Fighting Illini would be in the conversation for a number one seed.