When Does March Madness Start? What Date Does NCAA Tournament Begin, End?

Posted By Matt Burke on March 7, 2021

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which is annually the most wagered on multi-week stretch in sports, was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, the Big Dance is thankfully set to return as 68 teams will be looking to scratch and claw their way to a title. There will likely be an increased interest in this year’s tourney considering fans were deprived of the Madness a year ago. So, many are currently wondering, “when does March Madness start and what date does the NCAA tournament begin and end?”

Here we will dish out the full March Madness schedule, and also look at the current NCAA futures odds.

Best college basketball betting sites

Legal sports betting has arrived in well over a dozen states in the US. Top sportsbooks like the ones shown below are giving out big bucks in bonus money upon sign up. Click on the promos below to get started.

College basketball national title odds

We are just a few weeks away from crowning the 2021 NCAA Div. 1 men’s basketball champion. Here is a look at the current title odds. Hover over the odds you like and click to wager at one of the top sportsbooks in the US.

To view more NCAA national title odds, go to DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook and/or BetMGM.

Changes to the 2021 Big Dance

March Madness will be a little bit different this year for several reasons.

First, the entire tournament will be held in the state of Indiana. Second, arenas won’t be full of fans – as the NCAA will only allow 25% capacity.

Last, and one that will surely irk traditionalists, is that the first full day of tournament games will take place on a Friday instead of a Thursday. And both the second round of the tournament and the Elite 8 will bleed over into the following week instead of wrapping up on each Sunday. This year, the “First Four” – also known as the tournament “Play-In Games” – will all take place on a Thursday instead of being split between Tuesday and Wednesday like in years past.

NCAA tournament schedule

Here is a look at the 2021 March Madness schedule:

  • Selection Sunday: Sunday, March 14 (6 p.m. ET)
  • First Four: Thursday, March 18 (4 p.m. ET start)
  • First Round (First full days of games): Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20 (12 p.m. ET start times)
  • Second Round: Sunday, March 21 and Monday, March 22 (12 p.m. ET start times)
  • Sweet 16: Saturday, March 27 (2 p.m. ET) and Sunday, March 28 (1 p.m. ET)
  • Elite 8: Monday, March 29 (7 p.m. ET) and Tuesday, March 30 (6 p.m. ET)
  • Final Four: Saturday, April 3 (5 p.m. ET)
  • NCAA title game: Monday, April 5 (9 p.m. ET)

When does March Madness start? What date does NCAA tournament begin, end?

The 2021 NCAA tournament will start on Thursday, March 18 with the First Four. The first full day of games will be played on Friday, March 19.

College basketball’s Final Four will be played on Saturday, April 3 and the tournament will end on Monday, April 5 with the National Championship game.

Matt Burke Avatar
Written by
Matt Burke

Matt Burke is the Sports Editor and Head of Evergreen/SEO Content at TheLines.com. He is the Founder and former Editor-in-Chief of MetroBet, a digital and print sports betting platform, and was the Executive Sports Editor at Metro US Newspapers (New York, Philadelphia, Boston) from 2014-2020. Matt has covered Super Bowls and Final Fours, and his work has appeared for Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, the Eagle Tribune, Gloucester Daily Times and Newburyport Daily News. Matt is a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

View all posts by Matt Burke