ESPN Bracketology’s efforts are focused on projecting the NCAA Tournament field just as we expect the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee to select the field in March. ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi uses the same data points favored by the committee, including strength of schedule and other seasonal indicators, including NET and team sheet data, in field projections similar to those for the NCAA. Visit the NCAA website for more information NCAA selection criteria.
The 68-team bracket is the standard version of the NCAA Tournament field that has been in place since 2011. If the 2021 field includes 68 teams, there will be some key differences from previous years.
The main adjustment from the regular year is playing the entire NCAA Tournament at one site. This eliminates the need for geographic considerations in sowing. Additionally, there will be at least one less automatic qualifier this season, as the Ivy League’s decision to forego the 2020-21 season will reduce the number of AQ entries to 31 for this season.
In this projection, a condensed selection process will reduce the field to 10 large groups and 10 automatic qualifiers (the latter still receive a revenue share). The top four seeds in each region are welcome to the second round, where each region’s four first-round games – 5 of 12, 6 of 11, 7 of 10 and 8 of 9 – will be played without a fan. High seed house court.
First-round pairings are guided by geography as much as possible to minimize travel. And the reduced field results mean only 32 teams compete for central position. All participants must post at least a .500 conference record — the “Lunardi Rule” — for at-large consideration.
In this prediction, the committee selected and seeded the top 16 teams available. There are no automatic qualifiers, although all non-contest conference champions receive their assigned revenue share.
To maintain a sense of national balance, conference participation is divided into four groups. And no region will have more than one conference team.