ESPN’s bracketology efforts are focused on planning the NCAA tournament field, just as we anticipate the NCAA Division I basketball committee will select the field in March. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi uses the same data points favored by the committee in his predictions of the field, including game plan strength and other indicators for the entire season, including NET and team table data similar to that available to the NCAA stand. Visit the NCAA website to learn more NCAA Selection Criteria.
68 team bracket
The 68-team group is the standard version of the NCAA tournament field, in existence since 2011. When the 2021 field consists of 68 teams, however, there will be some key differences compared to previous years.
Of course, the most important change from a normal year is that the entire NCAA tournament is played in a single location. This eliminates the need for geographical considerations when sowing. Additionally, there will be at least one fewer automatic qualifier tournaments this season as the Ivy League’s decision to forego the 2020-21 season reduces the number of AQ entries to 31 for this season.
48 team bracket
In this forecast, a condensed selection process would reduce the field by 10 total teams and 10 auto-qualified teams (with the latter still receiving a revenue unit). The top four finishers from each region would receive a bye to the second round, with four first round games per region – 5 v 12, 6 v 11, 7 v 10 and 8 v 9 – being played without fans at the higher seed’s home court.
To minimize travel, first round pairings will be determined by geography as much as possible. And the reduced field of participants means that only 32 teams compete against each other at the central location. All participants must post a conference record of at least .500 – the “Lunardi Rule” – for public consideration.
16 teams bracket
In this prediction, the committee selects and seed the top 16 available teams. There are no automatic qualifiers, although all non-participating conference champions will receive the designated revenue unit.
To maintain a certain national balance, participation in the conference is limited to four teams. And no region may have more than one team from the same conference.