How March Madness Works

How March Madness Teams are Picked

The 10-member men's and women's selection committees are sequestered in a hotel during the selection process, not unlike a jury for an important court case. Members must weigh the evidence provided to them though certain criteria. During the selection process, each member must submit a list of teams that should, without a doubt, be in the tournament. This list cannot include the school that the member represents. If eight members put a team on their list, that team is put into the field of tournament teams.

Here are some of the criteria the selection committees rely on:

  • Rating Percentage Index (RPI)
  • Ranking in national polls
  • Conference record
  • Road record
  • Wins versus ranked opponents
  • A team's regular season record

The RPI is calculated as 25 percent of a team's winning percentage plus 50 percent of its opponents' average winning percentage plus 25 percent of the opponents' opponents' average winning percentage. A team's winning percentage is determined by dividing a team's wins by the number of games it has played [source:].

For those teams that aren't invited, there is no appeals process. The committee's decisions are final. The only conciliation for these teams is the possibility of playing in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), which invites another 32 teams for postseason play. The Women's NIT — which is not run by the NCAA — invites 64 teams [source: Women's NIT].

Now that you've learned how teams are selected, let's go to the next section and look at how teams are seeded by the committee.

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