How March Madness Works

Tournament Play

The NCAA tournament is played over a period of three weeks, usually beginning on the third Thursday in March. In 2011, after the first round, or the "First Four" that we mentioned earlier, compete for a chance to get a spot in the top 64, the real tournament begins. In the women's tournament, there are no extra teams, so there is no "opening round."

Over the first two full days of the tournament, the field of 64 teams is pared to 32. In the next two days, the field is trimmed to 16 -- the Sweet 16, as it is often called. These final 16 teams take a four-day break before resuming play on the next Thursday. During the second week of the tournament, the field is trimmed from 16 to four. These teams comprise the tournament's Final Four.

In the third and final week of the tournament, the teams that survive the mayhem of March and make it to the Final Four battle it out in April for the crown of college basketball. In the next section, we will take a closer look at this final championship game.

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