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NCAA Tournament March Madness Terms

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is one of the best times of the year. People from all over fill out a bracket to watch teams battle it out. There is so much drama and excitement for weeks in March leading up to the title game in early April. Are you up to date on your March Madness lingo? Here are some March Madness terms you should know.

List of March Madness Terms

There is no shortage of college basketball slang and lino for NCAA March Madness. Here are some words and phrases that you will be seeing while following this year’s tournament.

At-Large Bid

In the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, there are a total of 68 teams that make the field. 32 of those teams receive automatic bids by winning their conference tournament, while the other 36 teams receive at-large bids. At-large bids go to teams with strong resumes. They don’t have to win their conference tournament to get in.

For example, a team like the Duke Blue Devils might receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament because they had a good record and played well against tough competition throughout the season.

Automatic Bid

32 conference tournament champions receive automatic bids in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. These basketball teams earn their spot in the tournament by winning their conference tournament, which is a postseason tournament featuring teams from the same conference.

For example, if the Gonzaga Bulldogs win the West Coast Conference Tournament, they will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.


The bracket is the visual representation of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The single-elimination bracket is divided into four regions with 16 teams each. Teams have seeds numbered 1 through 16.


Bracketology is the study of predicting the NCAA tournament bracket before it is officially released. Experts specialize in bracketology and attempt to predict which teams will receive at-large bids. Also, they try to figure out where they will be placed in the bracket.

Bracket Buster

A bracket buster is a team that upsets a higher-seeded team in the NCAA tournament. These upsets cause chaos in the bracket. Also, a bracket buster ruins your bracket by knocking out your national championship pick.

Bubble Team

Bubble teams are teams that are on the edge of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. These teams are often on the “bubble” between making the tournament and being left out.


A Cinderella team is a lower-seeded team that makes a deep run in the NCAA tournament. These unexpected teams cause a lot of excitement for fans.

For example, Loyola-Chicago was a Cinderella team because they made a surprise run to the Final Four as an 11 seed in the 2018 NCAA tournament.

Elite Eight

The Elite Eight is the fourth round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. After the first and second rounds, there are 16 teams remaining to make up the Sweet 16. The winners of those games advance to the Elite Eight where there are just eight teams remaining for a shot to win it all.

First Four

The First Four is a set of play-in games that take place before the official start of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. These games consist of the four lowest-seeded at-large teams and the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers. The winners of these games advance to the first round of the tournament.

Final Four

The Final Four is the penultimate round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It features the four teams left standing in the tournament. These teams compete to make it to the championship game and potentially win the national title. Final Four matchups are highly anticipated. They draw a significant amount of attention from college basketball fans as just four teams remain.

First Four Teams Out

The First Four Teams Out refers to the first four teams not selected to compete in the NCAA tournament. These are “bubble teams.” This means they were close to making the tournament but ultimately fell short. Selection Sunday announces the tournament field. It’s heartbreaking for the first four teams out to not see their school name listed.

Last Four Teams In

The Last Four Teams In refers to the last four teams selected to compete in the NCAA tournament. These teams are often considered underdogs and are typically seeded lower in the tournament bracket. However, they still have the opportunity to make a Cinderella run and potentially advance far in the tournament.

March Madness

March Madness is the popular term for the NCAA basketball tournament. It is a single-elimination tournament featuring 68 teams that takes place over the course of several weeks in March and April. The tournament has upsets, underdogs, and thrilling finishes. Also, it attracts a large audience of basketball fans.

One Shining Moment

One Shining Moment is a popular song played at the end of the NCAA tournament. It is typically accompanied by a montage of highlights from the tournament, including game-winning shots, upsets, and emotional moments. The song has become synonymous with the excitement and drama of March Madness.


The NCAA tournament is divided into four regions, each featuring 16 teams. The regions are named after their geographic location and are used to determine where teams will play in the tournament. The four regions are the East, West, Midwest, and South.


A team’s seed in the NCAA tournament refers to its ranking within its region. 16 teams in each region receive seeds numbered 1 to 16. The highest-ranked teams receive a number 1 seed. A team’s seed determines its path through the tournament and the opponents it will face.

Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is responsible for selecting and seeding the teams that will compete in the NCAA tournament. The Division I men’s basketball committee consists of 10 members who are responsible for evaluating teams’ resumes and determining their place in the tournament field.

Selection Sunday

Selection Sunday includes the announcement of the NCAA tournament field. The Selection Committee reveals the 68 teams that will compete in the tournament, as well as their seeding and region assignments. Selection Sunday is a highly anticipated event for college basketball fans. Following the show, they fill out their tournament brackets based on the announced field.

Strength of Record

A metric used by the Selection Committee to evaluate teams’ overall strength based on the quality of their wins and losses. The metric takes into account a team’s strength of schedule and its performance against top opponents.

Strength of Schedule

A metric used to evaluate the difficulty of a team’s schedule. It takes into account the quality of opponents a team has faced, as well as the locations and outcomes of those games. A team with a strong strength of schedule may receive a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.

Sweet 16

The Sweet 16 is the third round of the tournament. It is the stage of the tournament where only 16 teams remain out of the original 68 teams. The Sweet 16 is where the competition starts to really heat up and fans start to see which teams have what it takes to make it to the Final Four.

The Big Dance

The Big Dance refers to the NCAA basketball tournament, also known as March Madness. The name derives from the excitement and energy that surrounds the tournament.

March Madness Terms FAQs

What are some important terms in March Madness I should know?

Some of the common terms you will hear are The Big Dance, Cinderella, Selection Sunday, Final Four, First Four, Sweet 16, Elite 8, and more.

What else do people call March Madness?

March Madness is also called the Big Dance or the NCAA basketball tournament.

How do seeds work in a March Madness bracket?

There are a total of 16 seeds in each region of the bracket. The committee ends up seeding teams from 1 to 16 in each region.

How many teams make the NCAA Tournament?

The NCAA selection committee picks 68 teams to make the tournament. The men’s tournament expanded to 68 teams back in 2011. There are 32 teams in the tournament that receive an automatic bid for winning their conference tournament.