The March Madness bracket is the structure that determines which teams face off during the tournament, and therefore each team’s potential route to the NCAA Championship Game. The announcement of the bracket is eagerly anticipated every year, partially because bettors enjoy attempting to predict exactly how it will play out.
Before the bracket proper is the First Four round, in which the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifier teams and four lowest-seeded at-large teams face off for a spot in the final 64-team bracket. These games are the first to be played at March Madness, with the victors advancing to be seeded No. 11 or 16 in the first round.
In the final bracket, the 64 teams are divided and then seeded into four groups of 16 according to their region (East, Midwest, South, or West). In the first round, the region’s first seed play the No. 16 seed, the second seed play the No. 15 seed, and so on. Higher seeded teams are deliberately kept at opposite ends of the bracket, as to ensure their seeding awards them with an “easier” run to the tournament’s latter stages.
As March Madness is a single-elimination knockout tournament, from that point forwards the number of teams half in each round. The second round features 32 teams, and is followed by the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, and Final Four rounds, before two teams remain to contest the NCAA Championship Game.