We’re just days away from the start of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, but college basketball fans will have to wait an additional 24 hours this year to enjoy March Madness.
Since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the NCAA Tournament has always started on the Thursday following Selection Sunday. This year, however, it will start on Friday. The answer, as with most of the changes with March Madness this year, has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
That change starts with the first four. Since their inception in 2011, the First Four have always been contested on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the winners of Tuesday’s games playing in the first round on Thursday and the winners of Wednesday playing on Friday. This year, however, each of the first four games will take place on Thursday.
Why has the First Four been changed to a one-night event? It all has to do with the change in logistics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga) | Lutovsky (Baylor)
The entire 2021 NCAA Tournament will be held in the state of Indiana, with the majority in Indianapolis. Each team must have at least five players who produce seven consecutive days of negative COVID-19 test results to be eligible. Considering the extensive security protocols the NCAA has for the 2021 tournament, the organization is likely to expect little trouble in a semi-bubble situation.
In that regard, it makes sense to delay the tournament one day to ensure teams have as much time as possible to make sure their teams are healthy. (Ask Kansas and Virginia).
The second round will take place immediately after the first round on Sundays and Mondays. From there, Sweet 16 will take place on Saturday March 27th and Sunday March 28th. The Elite Eight rounds will take place immediately after the round on Monday March 29th and Tuesday March 30th. The Final Four and the national championship will take place on Sunday, April 3 and Monday, April 5, respectively.
Below is a summary of the first four and the first round parts of the 2021 NCAA tournament schedule.
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March Madness 2021 Calendar
Thursday March 18
|Game 1: No. 16 Mount St Mary’s vs. No. 16 Texas Southern||5:10 pm||truTV|
|Game 2: No. 11 State of Wichita v. No. 11 Drake||6:27 pm||TBS|
|Game 3: No. 16 Norfolk State v. No. 16 Appalachian State||8:40 pm||truTV|
|Game 4: No. 11 Michigan State vs. No. 11 UCLA||9:57 pm||TBS|
Friday March 19
|Game 5: No. 10 Virginia Tech vs. No. 7 Florida||12:15 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 6: No. 14 Colgate vs. No. 3 Arkansas||12:45 pm||truTV|
|Game 7: No. 16 Drexel vs. No. 1 Illinois||1:15 pm||TBS|
|Game 8: No. 11 State of Utah vs. No. 6 Texas Tech||1:45 pm||TNT|
|Game 9: No. 15 Oral Roberts vs. No. 2 Ohio State||3 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 10: No. 16 Hartford vs. No. 1 Baylor||3:30 pm||truTV|
|Game 11: No. 9 Georgia Tech vs. No. 8 Loyola Chicago||4 pm||TBS|
|Game 12: No. 12 State of Oregon vs. No. 5 Tennessee||4:30 pm||TNT|
|Game 13: No. 13 Liberty vs. Oklahoma State No. 4||6:25 pm||TBS|
|Game 14: No. 9 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 North Carolina||7:10 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 15: No. 15 Cleveland State vs. No. 2 Houston||7:15 pm||truTV|
|Game 16: No. 13 North Texas vs. No. 4 Purdue||7:25 pm||TNT|
|Game 17: No. 10 Rutgers vs. No. 7 Clemson||9:20 pm||TBS|
|Game 18: No. 11 Syracuse vs. San Diego State No. 6||9:40 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 19: No. 14 Morehead State vs. No. 3 West Virginia||9:50 pm||truTV|
|Game 20: No. 12 Winthrop No. 5 Villanova||9:57 pm||TNT|
Saturday March 20
|Game 21: No. 12 Georgetown vs. No. 5 Colorado||12:15 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 22: No. 13 UNC Greensboro vs. No. 4 State of Florida||12:45 pm||truTV|
|Game 23: No. 14 Eastern Washington vs. No. 3 Kansas||1:15 pm||TBS|
|Game 24: No. 9 San Buenaventura vs. No. 8 LSU||1:45 pm||TNT|
|Game 25: No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s / Texas Southern vs. No. 1 Michigan||3 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 26: No. 12 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 5 Creighton||3:30 pm||truTV|
|Game 27: No. 15 Iona vs. No. 2 Alabama||4 pm||TBS|
|Game 28: No. 11 State of Wichita / Drake v. No. 6 USC||4:30 pm||TNT|
|Game 29: No. 15 Grand Canyon vs. No. 2 Iowa||6:25 pm||TBS|
|Game 30: No. 10 Maryland vs. No. 7 UConn||7:10 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 31: No. 13 Ohio vs. No. 4 Virginia||7:15 pm||truTV|
|Game 32: No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Oklahoma||7:25 pm||TNT|
|Game 33: No. 16 Norfolk State / Appalachian State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga||9:20 pm||TBS|
|Game 34: No. 11 Michigan State / UCLA vs. No. 6 BYU||9:40 pm||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 35: No. 14 Abilene Christian vs. No. 3 Texas||9:50 pm||truTV|
|Game 36: No. 10 VCU vs. No. 7 Oregon||9:57 pm||TNT|
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.