Basketball Schedule, March Madness, NCAA

When does March Madness start? Here’s the NCAA tournament schedule for 2021

March 11, 2020 was a day that will go down in sports history. On this day, Nebraska head coach and former NBA player Fred Hoiberg fell visibly ill during a first round matchup in the BIG10 Tournament (which later turned out to be the flu). This was the same day the NBA would suspend their regular season following Rudy Gobert‘s positive COVID-19 test.

The previous day, the Ivy League announced their cancellation of the conference’s tournament, but multiple other conferences stated their desire to continue on with their respective competitions. The 2020 NCAA tournament would cancel their conference tournaments, but hold off on canceling the NCAA tournament for a week. Until March 17th, 2020 when the NCAA reluctantly announced the cancelation of March Madness.

When does March Madness start?

The 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was one of the first major sporting events to be cancelled once the pandemic hit, but this year we return to our normal March Madness schedule – albeit with some baggage.

The tournament is a bit delayed this season. So instead of the First Four battling it out on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Selection Sunday, it’s been moved two days later where all four games will play on that  Thursday.

These first four games of the tournament are exactly that, they signal the official start of March Madness. With that in mind: The 2021 March Madness tournament began Thursday, March 18th

March Madness schedule for 2021

The winners of those First Four matches will not just get into The Big Dance, but they’ll get the opportunity to unseat one of the aforementioned #1 seeds. The rest of the schedule will be similarly moved out a couple days. Here’s a general schedule of how the rounds will break down. You can view the full March Madness schedule at

2021 March Madness Updated Schedule
Date Day Round Time (ET)
March 18 Thu First Four 5:10 p.m.
March 19 Fri First Round 12:15 p.m.
March 20 Sat First Round 12:15 p.m.
March 21 Sun Second Round 12:00 p.m.
March 22 Mon Second Round 12:00 p.m.
March 27 Sat Sweet 16 2:00 p.m.
March 28 Sun Sweet 16 1:00 p.m.
March 29 Mon Elite 8 7:00 p.m.
March 30 Tue Elite 8 6:00 p.m.
April 03 Sat Final Four 5:00 p.m.
April 05 Mon Championship 9:00 p.m.

The First Four will begin by battling it out for a spot in the larger 64-team bracket. This will be immediately followed by the 1st and 2nd rounds that will take place over the next four days from March 19-22 (Friday-Monday).

Once the first week has completed, the remaining 16-teams will advance into the next weekend of games on March 27th and March 28th. These two days will cut the Sweet Sixteen in half into the Elite Eight which will be played into Monday and Tuesday (March 29 and 30).

The Final Four will then compete for the final two spots on April 3rd at 5:00 PM and the big game will take place on Monday, April 5th at 9:00 PM.


Print out the above March Madness schedule so you know when the first and second rounds will kick off  and you know when to turn on the TV to CBS. Follow along with the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four all the way to the NCAA Men’s D1 Championship. You can download and print out the above schedule in PDF here.

The March Madness COVID-19 bubble

The 2021 March Madness event won’t just be a little different from a scheduling standpoint, but the entire tournament’s location will follow the NBA in the sense they will play it all in a bubble; all games will take place in Indiana, with limited fan attendance and multiple COVID protocols in place.

The amount of fans in attendance will depend on the venue the game takes place in, as there will be 6 venues within the state of Indiana where all NCAA Tournament games will be held. However, the NCAA announced that all venues will allow “up to 25% capacity with social distancing”.

So, the typical COVID protocols like all players, coaches, and fans wearing face coverings, and social distancing themselves during games. And the cleaning, disinfecting, and safety measures will be the main priority for the NCAA.

Now that you’ve got all the dates and locations, print out your March Madness bracket.

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