The new 68-team NCAA Tournament format has just been released by the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. The tournament will kick off with the “First Four” games, which will make up the first round.
Two of the first round games will feature the last four at-large teams selected to the championship field, while the other two games will match teams ranked 65 through 68 on the overall seed list (S-curve), who will battle for No. 16 seeds. The winners of the four games will advance to the second round.
This will be the first time in history that the last four at-large teams will be revealed to the public. “With the new bracket essentially featuring four additional at-large teams, the committee determined it was appropriate to have the teams play in the first round,” said Dan Guerrero, the director of athletics at UCLA and chair of the committee for the 2009-10 academic year. “We believe this format provides an extraordinary opportunity for the championship’s first-round games to be quality match-ups as March Madness begins.”
One example of a scenario could be at-large games between two No. 10 seeds and two No. 12 seeds. The No. 10 seed winner would play their natural opponent on a 64-team bracket, the No. 7 seed, while the No. 12 seed winner would play a No. 5 seed.
In keeping with bracketing procedures, teams will still be assigned according to closest available geographic location while avoiding regular-season rematches and conference opponents. The schedule and location of the 2011 First Four games will be announced in the coming weeks. “We will examine all options moving forward, and that includes playing the first-round games at one site on one date, at multiple sites on multiple dates, or any combination therein,” Guerrero said.