These 1,066 schools are divided into three categories and must follow rules specific to their division. Here are some of the factors that the NCAA uses to delineate between the three divisions.
Division I - These schools must sponsor at least seven sports each for men and women, or six for men and eight for women, with two team sports for each gender. Men's and women's basketball teams must play all but two of their games against Division I teams, and men must play a third of their contests in their designated home arena. Schools have a minimum and maximum number of scholarships they can award. Of the three divisions, Division I is the most prominent and receives the most publicity.
Division II - These schools must sponsor at least five sports each for men and women (or four for men and six for women), with at least two team sports for each gender. Men and women's basketball teams must play at least half of their games against Division I or Division II schools. There are no minimum home game requirements for this division.
Division III - These schools must sponsor at least five sports each for men and women, with two team sports for each gender. Unlike Divisions I and II, Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships.
One of the NCAA's duties is to organize the annual basketball tournament for men's and women's college basketball of each division. Each tournament is based on a single-elimination format.
Since the Division I tournament is the most prominent, and the format for all of the tournaments is the same, the rest of this article focuses on the Division I tournament. In the next section, you will learn more about the tournament format.