Start of practice signals beginning of women's college basketball season: Many women’s programs have started their preparations thanks to a new NCAA rule this year that permits women’s teams to begin practicing 40 days before their first game. Read more »
Q & A with Division I Men’s Basketball Committee chair: Dan Guerrero spoke to a select group of reporters about the format for the expanded, 68-team championship in 2011. Read the story
Q & A with NCAA Senior Vice president of Division I Men’s Basketball and Business Strategies: Greg Shaheen spoke to a select group of reporters about Monday’s “First Four” announcement. Read the story
Chronology: How the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship bracket has grown over time: Read the story
Looking back: An inside look at how the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1984. Read the story
By David Worlock
Some 345 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams begin their journey on the road they hope will culminate at the Final Four, as official practices will be conducted across the country this weekend. Many teams and their fans will gather across the country in arenas late Friday night for Midnight Madness, the annual celebration that marks the start to the season. Practices are permitted to begin after 5 p.m. Friday.
ESPNU will televise its Midnight Madness special featuring extensive whip-around coverage from top college basketball programs around the nation on Friday at 9 p.m. ET. Coverage will focus on several men’s programs, including defending national champion Duke, as well as Kentucky, Memphis, Gonzaga, Kansas State and St. John’s. The University of Connecticut women’s program – the two-time defending national champion, which is riding a 78-game winning streak (10 short of the UCLA men's record for consecutive victories in NCAA Division I basketball) – will also be featured.
Coming off a thrilling conclusion to the 2009-10 season that saw the Blue Devils win the men’s title after Butler’s half-court shot caromed off the rim, the upcoming season promises to give college basketball fans around the world more excitement.
However, the Madness is not limited to March.
Nonconference games in November feature contests such as Ohio State-Florida, Texas-Illinois, Kansas State-Gonzaga, Kansas-Arizona, Missouri-Georgetown and Tennessee-Pittsburgh. Blockbuster tilts continue in December with matchups such as Duke-Butler, Syracuse-Michigan State, Kentucky-North Carolina, Washington-Texas A&M and Temple-Villanova. And that’s just a small sampling.
In addition to the dozens of individual nonconference games, several multi-team events promise to feature matchups among the nation’s top programs. The NCAA has historically identified these events as ideal opportunities to use experimental rules, and this year is no exception. In May, the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee approved the experimental use of an expanded arc at two feet from the center of the basket. This identifies an area on the floor where a secondary defender is not able to establish legal guarding position. The committee felt that the rule change made last year reduced the number of collisions at the goal. This year’s experimental rule calls for the area to be slightly expanded.
The men’s championship also enters a new era, with the announcement earlier this year that the tournament field will expand to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 championship. Under the new format, there will be four first-round games, to be played in Dayton March 15 and 16 and known as the First Four. It will feature two games involving teams playing for the right to advance as No. 16 seeds that will play top-seeded teams in the second round, and two other games featuring the final four at-large teams selected to the field.
Second- and third-round games will be played March 17-20. Host cities are Denver, Colorado; Tampa, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; Washington D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Regional sites will conduct games March 24-27 and include Anaheim, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; Newark, New Jersey; and San Antonio, Texas. The 2011 Men’s Final Four will be held April 2 and 4 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Tournament tickets can be purchased by visiting www.ncaa.com/mbbtickets.
The NCAA reached a deal in April with Turner Sports and CBS worth $10.8 billion over 14 years for the television, Internet and wireless rights to the tournament. As part of the agreement, all 67 games of the championship will be shown live across four national networks—CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Previously, fewer than 10 tournament games were guaranteed to have a full national audience.
The bracket, which will be revealed Sunday, March 13 on CBS, is constructed by using the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee's principles and procedures, which can be located at www.ncaa.com/media. This year’s committee is chaired by Gene Smith of Ohio State. He is joined on the committee by Stan Morrison of University of California, Riverside; Jeff Hathaway of Connecticut, Lynn Hickey of University of Texas at San Antonio, Mike Bobinski of Xavier University, Doug Fullerton of the Big Sky Conference, Dan Beebe of the Big 12 Conference, Ron Wellman of Wake Forest University, Scott Barnes of Utah State, and Steve Orsini of Southern Methodist University.
But before teams start dancing their way through NCAA March Madness, they will have a little fun with Midnight Madness and the practices this week. The journey on the Road to the Final Four actually begins in October with this tradition that started nearly 40 years ago when Lefty Driesell had his University of Maryland team go for a run on the campus’ track minutes after midnight on the first day of allowable practices. Approximately 3,000 fans attended the event, and it became a tradition that spread across the country and now features a variety of activities to entertain thousands of fans. Many of the practices are televised live locally and carried live via video streaming across the Internet.
David Worlock is associate director of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.