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2009 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament

The 2009 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament will involve 65 schools playing in a single-elimination tournament to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball as a culmination of the 2008–09 basketball season. Held every spring it is scheduled to begin on March 17, 2009, and will conclude with the championship game on April 6 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, which will mark the first time a Final Four will have a minimum seating capacity of 70,000.

A total of 65 teams will enter the tournament. Thirty of the teams will earn automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments. The automatic bid of the Ivy League, which does not conduct a postseason tournament, will go to its regular-season champion. The remaining 34 teams will be granted "at-large" bids, which are extended by the NCAA Selection Committee.

Two low-seeded teams (typically teams with poor records that qualified by winning their conference tournament championships) compete in the "opening round" game to determine which will advance into the first round of the tournament, with the winner advancing to play the top seed in one of the four regions. The opening Round game was added in 2001 and has been played in University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio each subsequent year. Even though the opening round is technically considered part of the tournament, it is often referred to as a "play-in" game.

All 64 teams will be seeded 1 to 16 within their region; the winner of the play-in game automatically will receive a 16 seed. The Selection Committee, appointed by the NCAA, will seed the entire field from 1 to 65. There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (9.2 quintillion) possibilities for a 64 team NCAA bracket.[4]

This tournament, organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), was first developed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 1939. The NCAA would take over the tournament the following season. Colloquially known as March Madness (as the tournament takes place mainly during the month of March) or the Big Dance (as opposed to the now smaller and less prestigious NIT), the tournament takes place over three weeks at sites across the United States, and the national semifinals (the Final Four) have become one of the nation's most prominent sporting events.

Since its 1939 inception it has built a legacy that includes dynasty teams and dramatic underdog stories. In recent years, friendly wagering on the event has become something of a national pastime, spawning countless "office pools" that attract expert fans and novices alike. The tournament bracket is made up of conference tournament champions from each Division I conference, which receive automatic bids. The remaining slots are at-large berths, with teams chosen by an NCAA selection committee. The selection process and tournament seeds are based on several factors, including team rankings, win-loss records and RPI data.

The tournament is split into four regions and each region has teams seeded 1–16, with the committee making every region as comparable to the others as possible. The best team in each region plays the #16 team, the #2 team plays the #15, and so on. The effect of this seeding structure ensures that the better a team is seeded, the worse-seeded their opponents will be.

The brackets are not reseeded after each round. The tournament is single-elimination and there are no consolation games—although there was a third-place game as late as 1981, and each regional had a third-place game through the 1975 tournament. The single-elimination format produces opportunities for Cinderella teams to advance despite playing higher seeded teams. Nonetheless, despite the numerous instances of early-round Tournament upsets, including four instances of a #15 seed defeating a #2 seed, no #1 seed has ever lost in the first round to a #16 seed.

Round 1/Round

The first and second round games are played on the first weekend of the tournament, either on Thursday and Saturday or Friday and Sunday.

Since 2002, the tournament has used the so-called "pod" system, in which the eight first- and second-round sites are distributed around the four regionals. Before the 2002 tournament, all teams playing at a first- or second-round site fed into the same regional tournament. The pod system was designed to limit the early-round travel of as many teams as possible.

In the pod system, each regional bracket is divided into four-team "pods." The possible pods by seeding are:

  • Pod #1: 1v16, 8v9
  • Pod #2: 2v15, 7v10
  • Pod #3: 3v14, 6v11
  • Pod #4: 4v13, 5v12
Each of the eight first and second round sites is assigned two pods, where each group of four teams play each other. A host site's pods may be from different regions, and thus the winners of each pod would advance into separate regional tournaments.

The 2009 first and second round games will be played at the following sites: March 19 / 21 - Thu/Sat

  • Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Rose Garden Arena, Portland, Oregon
March 20 / 22 - Fri/Sun
  • University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
  • AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Florida
  • Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho

Regional semi-finals and finals

The teams which are still alive after the first weekend advance to the regional semi-finals (the Sweet Sixteen) and finals (the Elite Eight) played on the second weekend of the tournament (again, the games are split into Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday).

The four regionals are officially named after their areas, a practice which resumed in 2007. Between 2004 and 2006, the regionals were named for their host cities. The following are the sites for the 2009 regionals:

  • East Regional, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
  • West Regional, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
  • South Regional, FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Midwest Regional, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Final Four

The winners of each region advance to the Final Four, where the national semifinals are played on Saturday and the national championship is played on Monday. Before the 2004 tournament, the pairings for the semifinals were based on an annual rotation. For example, in 2000, the winner of the West Regional played the winner of the Midwest regional, and the South winner played the East winner; in 2001, the West winner played the East winner and the South played the Midwest; in 2002, the West played the South and the East played the Midwest. Since 2004 and in response to complaints that too often the two best teams remaining squared off in a semifinal game and not in the final game (such as when the last two remaining 1 seeds, Kansas and Maryland, played in one semifinal while a 2 seed and a 5 seed played in the other semifinal), the pairings are determined by the ranking of the four top seeds against each other. The four number one seeds are ranked before the tournament begins.

Format history

The NCAA tournament has expanded a number of times in the last 65 seasons. This is a breakdown of the history of the tournament format:

  • 1939–1950: eight teams
  • 1951–1974: varied between sixteen teams and 25 teams.
  • 1975–1978: 32 teams
  • 1979: 40 teams
  • 1980–1982: 48 teams
  • 1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
  • 1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
  • 1985–2000: 64 teams
  • 2001—present: 65 teams (with an "opening round" game to determine whether the 64th or 65th team plays in the first round)
Prior to 1975, only one team per conference could be in the NCAA tournament. However, a few factors led the NCAA to expand the field, notably the 1971 season when USC was #2 in the country with only 2 losses (both to #1 UCLA), and the 1974 ACC basketball Tournament final between Maryland and NC State, both of whom were top 5 teams that year.

March Madness and history of the term

March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March, especially those conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and various state high school associations. Fans began connecting the term to the NCAA tournament in the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who had worked for many years in Chicago prior to joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts. The phrase was not associated with the college tournament in 1939, when an Illinois official wrote "A little March Madness may contribute to sanity." March Madness is also a registered trademark, held jointly by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association. It was also the title of a book about the Illinois high school tournament written in 1977 by Jim Enright.

H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (and later a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame) was the first person to use March Madness to commemorate a basketball tournament. A gifted writer, Porter published an essay named March Madness in 1939 and in 1942 used the phrase in a poem, Basketball Ides of March. Through the years the use of March Madness picked up steam, especially in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest. During this period the term was used almost exclusively in reference to state high school tournaments. In 1977 the IHSA published a book about its tournament titled March Madness. Only in the 1990s did either the IHSA or NCAA think about trademarking the term, and by that time a small television production company named Intersport, Inc., had beaten them both to the punch. IHSA eventually bought the trademark rights from Intersport and then went after big game, suing GTE Vantage, Inc., an NCAA licensee that used the name March Madness for a computer game based on the college tournament. In a historic ruling, Illinois High School Association v. GTE Vantage, Inc. (1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit created the concept of a "dual-use trademark," granting both the IHSA and NCAA the right to trademark the term for their own purposes.

Following the ruling, the NCAA and IHSA joined forces and created the March Madness Athletic Association to coordinate the licensing of the trademark and investigate possible trademark infringement. One such case involved a company that had obtained the Internet domain name and was using it to post information about the NCAA tournament. After protracted litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in March Madness Athletic Association v. Netfire, Inc. (2003) that March Madness was not a generic term and ordered Netfire to relinquish the domain name.

Championship trophies and other honors

As a tournament ritual, the winning team cuts down the net at the end of the regional championship game as well as the national championship game. Each player (traditionally with the seniors going first, then juniors, and so on) cuts a single strand off of the net for themselves, commemorating their victory, with the head coach cutting the last strand and claiming the net itself. Furthermore, the regional champs (starting in 2006) receive a bronze plated NCAA Regional Championship trophy (previously given to only the Final Four teams that did not make the championship game), and the National Champions also receive a gold plated wooden NCAA National Championship trophy. The loser of the championship game receives a silver plated National Runner-Up trophy for second place.

After the championship trophy is awarded, one player is selected and then awarded the Most Outstanding Player award (which almost always come from the championship team). It is not intended to be the same as a Most Valuable Player award although it is sometimes informally referred to as such.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches also presents a more elaborate marble/crystal trophy to the top-ranked team in its end-of-season coaches' poll, which is invariably the same as the NCAA championship game winner. This award, currently sponsored as the "Siemens Trophy," is not affiliated with the NCAA and is presented either at a later press conference or immediately following the presentation of the standard NCAA trophy.


The Division I Men's Basketball tournament is the only NCAA championship tournament (officially, the BCS Football Championship is not an NCAA event) where the NCAA does not keep the profits. Instead, the money from the multi-billion-dollar television contract is divided among the Division I basketball playing schools and conferences as follows:

  • 1/6 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many sports they play (one "share" for each sport starting with 14, which is the minimum needed for Division I membership).
  • 1/3 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many scholarships they give out (one share for each of the first 50, two for each of the next 50, ten for each of the next 50, and 20 for each scholarship above 150).
  • 1/2 of the money goes to the conferences based on how well they did in the six previous men's basketball tournaments (counting each year separately, one share for each team getting in, and one share for each win except in the Play-in game and the Final Four). In 2007, based on the 2001 through 2006 tournaments, the Big East received over $14.85 million, while the eight conferences that did not win a first-round game in those six years received slightly more than $1 million each.

Final Four

The term Final Four refers to the last four teams remaining in the playoff tournament. These are the champions of the tournament's four regional brackets, and the only teams remaining on the tournament's final weekend. (The term has been applied retroactively to include the last four teams in tournaments from earlier years, when only two brackets existed.)

Some claim that the phrase Final Four was first used to describe the final games of Indiana's annual high school basketball tournament. But the NCAA, which has a trademark on the term, says Final Four was originated by a Cleveland Plain Dealer sportswriter, Ed Chay, in a 1975 article that appeared in the Official Collegiate Basketball Guide. The article stated that Marquette University “was one of the final four” in the 1974 tournament. The NCAA started capitalizing the term in 1978, and turning it into a trademark several years later.

In the men's tournament, all sites are nominally neutral: teams are prohibited from playing tournament games on their home courts (though in some cases, a team may be fortunate enough to play in or near its home state or city). Under current NCAA rules, any court on which a team hosts more than three regular-season games is considered a "home court" (conference tournament games are not counted for this purpose). In the 2006 tournament, Villanova was able to play its first two games at the Wachovia Center in nearby Philadelphia, a venue where it had played three regular-season home games. A fourth home game at that facility would have disqualified them from playing there. However, some semi-"home" courts (such as George Mason playing its regional at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., not far from its campus in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2006) are mere quirks of scheduling and have been part of the tournament for years.

On the third weekend, traditionally a Saturday and Monday for the men's tournament and a Sunday and Tuesday for the women's tournament, the final four teams meet in semifinals on the first day and the championship on the second. For several years in the men's tournament, the teams eliminated in the semifinals met in a consolation game prior to the championship; this was discontinued in 1981.

Top-ranked teams

6 teams, since the beginning of the seeding process, have entered the tournament ranked #1 in at least 1 poll and gone on to win the tournament:

  • 1982: North Carolina
  • 1992: Duke
  • 1995: UCLA
  • 2000: Michigan State
  • 2001: Duke
  • 2007: Florida
Prior to the seeding system, teams like North Carolina (1957), UCLA (1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973), and Indiana (1976) were ranked #1 and won the championship.

#1 seeds

Since the NCAA started seeding teams (1979), only once have all four #1 seeds made it to the Final Four (National Semifinals):

  • 2008 Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA
The championship game has matched two #1 seeds only six times:
  • 1982 North Carolina defeated Georgetown
  • 1993 North Carolina defeated Michigan
  • 1999 Connecticut defeated Duke
  • 2005 North Carolina defeated Illinois
  • 2007 Florida defeated Ohio State
  • 2008 Kansas defeated Memphis
At least one #1 seed has made the Final Four in every year except:
  • 1980 -- Louisville - #2, Iowa - #5, Purdue - #6, UCLA - #8
  • 2006 -- UCLA - #2, Florida - #3, LSU - #4, George Mason - #11
The only team to beat three #1 seeds in a single tournament was #4 seed Arizona in 1997. Due to tournament structure, it's impossible to play a team from each one of the regions in a single tournament, thus it is impossible to play all four #1 seeds in a single tournament.

First-round games

  • No #16 seed has never defeated a #1 seed since the field was expanded to 64 teams, though some have come close. Eleven #16 seeds have come within 10 points of a #1 seed, with five of them coming within 5 points. Two have come within one point. Only one #16/#1 game has gone into overtime (Murray State vs. Michigan State in 1990).
  • Only four #15 seeds have ever defeated #2 seeds:
Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, each seed-pairing has played a total of 96 first-round games.
  1. The #1 seed has beaten the #16 seed 96 times (100%).
  2. The #2 seed has beaten the #15 seed 92 times (96%).
  3. The #3 seed has beaten the #14 seed 81 times (84%).
  4. The #4 seed has beaten the #13 seed 79 times (82%).
  5. The #5 seed has beaten the #12 seed 65 times (67%).
  6. The #6 seed has beaten the #11 seed 66 times (69%).
  7. The #7 seed has beaten the #10 seed 60 times (62%).
  8. The #8 seed has beaten the #9 seed 44 times (46%).

Courts and Venues

  • Since 1986, the winning team is traditionally given the floor from the championship venue to keep. What the school does with it varies: some schools sell pieces of it to fans, others simply put it in storage, and still others use it in their venues, such as Michigan State did in 2002 and Florida did in 2006, re-painting the hardwood and placing it in their home arena. The only exception to this was in 1978: for that year's Final Four, the NCAA had to truck in Indiana's court from Assembly Hall to the Checkerdome in St. Louis, as the basketball floor at that hockey arena had been warped as a result of water damage. Notably, Duke University Bookstores donated the 2001 floor to the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center, a Durham, North Carolina non-profit community center.
  • The NCAA has banned the Bi-Lo Center and Colonial Center in South Carolina from hosting tournament games, despite their sizes (16,000 and 18,000 seats, respectively) because of an NAACP protest at the Bi-Lo Center during the 2002 first and second round tournament games over that state's refusal to take down the Confederate Battle Flag from their state capitol. Following requests by the NAACP and Black Coaches Association, the Bi-Lo Center, and the newly built Colonial Center, which was built for purposes of hosting the tournament, were banned from hosting any future tournament events.
  • The first instance of a domed stadium being used for a NCAA Tournament Final Four was the Houston Astrodome in 1971, but the Final Four would not return to a dome until 1982, when the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans hosted the event for the first time. Since 1997, the NCAA has held their Final Four sessions in domed stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000, usually having only a half of the dome in use. The last small arena to host the Final Four was The Meadowlands in 1996. As of 2009, the minimum was raised to 70,000, by adding additional seating on the floor of the dome, and raising the court on a platform three feet above the dome's floor, which is usually crowned for football, like the setup at Minnesota's Williams Arena. Additionally, since the NCAA's headquarters are in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Final Four is held in that city every five years, first at the RCA Dome, and (as of 2010) at Lucas Oil Stadium.


At 11 national titles, UCLA currently holds the record for the most NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championships. University of Kentucky is second, with 7 national titles, and Indiana University is third with 5 national titles.

School Titles Years
Arizona 1 1997
Arkansas 1 1994
California 1 1959
Cincinnati 2 1961, 1962
CCNY 1 1950
Connecticut 2 1999, 2004
Duke 3 1991, 1992, 2001
Florida 2 2006, 2007
Georgetown 1 1984
Holy Cross 1 1947
Indiana 5 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987
Kansas 3 1952, 1988, 2008
Kentucky 7 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998
La Salle 1 1954
Louisville 2 1980, 1986
Loyola (Chicago) 1 1963
Marquette 1 1977
Maryland 1 2002
Michigan 1 1989
Michigan State 2 1979, 2000
North Carolina 4 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005
North Carolina State 2 1974, 1983
Ohio State 1 1960
Oklahoma State 2 1945, 1946
Oregon 1 1939
San Francisco 2 1955, 1956
Stanford 1 1942
Syracuse 1 2003
UCLA 11 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995
UNLV 1 1990
UTEP (Texas Western) 1 1966
Utah 1 1944
Villanova 1 1985
Wisconsin 1 1941
Wyoming 1 1943

Future Host Cities

On November 19, 2008, the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee announced the Final Four host cities for 2012 through 2016.
  • 2009: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan (April 4 and 6)
  • 2010: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana (April 3 and 5)
  • 2011: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas (April 2 and 4)
  • 2012: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana (March 31 and April 2)
  • 2013: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia (April 6 and 8)
  • 2014: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas (April 5 and 7)
  • 2015: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana (April 4 and 6)
  • 2016: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas (April 2 and 4)