The first round of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is set to take place later this week — but there's still time for fans to get their brackets ready.
College basketball fans have been waiting for March Madness to return ever since last year's NCAA tournament was canceled at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
This time around, the NCAA will host every game of the 2021 tourney in Indiana, with the majority taking place in Indianapolis. There will be "limited" fan attendance at games, and arenas will only be allowed to let in up to 25 percent of their typical capacity (while enforcing social distancing).
As Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said in a statement in February, "This year's tournament will be like no other."
Aside from the changes in the venue, there will also be some adjustments to the bracket, the NCAA recently announced.
"Teams will be placed in the bracket based on rankings without the usual considerations for geography," the NCAA explained. "This is called using the 'S-curve' to fill the bracket. There will be 37 at-large selections (one more than normal) and 31 automatic qualifiers (one fewer than normal)."
"The Selection Committee will follow its bracketing principles, like not matching teams from the same conference against each other in early rounds," they added. The top four seeds and the First Four remain the same, though.
To get in on the fun, fans can download a printable bracket from the NCAA website here. One can also be filled out online at ESPN Fantasy's website — as long as it's completed by the start of the First Four on Thursday, March 18. Yahoo has a similar online bracket challenge, as does Capital One.
The tournament's schedule is as follows:
Selection Sunday: Sunday, March 14
First Four: Thursday, March 18
First Round: Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20
Second Round: Sunday, March 21 and Monday, March 22
Sweet 16: Saturday, March 27 and Sunday, March 28
Elite Eight: Monday, March 29 and Tuesday, March 30
Final Four: Saturday, April 3
National Championship Game: Monday, April 5
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