Saturday, May 21

Why does March Madness start on a Friday in 2021? Explaining the new NCAA tournament schedule

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).

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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

First four

Thursday March 18

Game Time (ET) television
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

Round 1

Friday March 19

Game Time (ET) television
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
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Saturday March 20

Game Time (ET) television
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

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