Championship Week is the best, but only if you’re properly educated. Thankfully, this guide is here to help ensure that anyone who wants to experience the highest dosage of madness possible has the ability to do so.
Now if your only interest in March college basketball lies with the teams that have a “real” shot to win a national title, that’s fine — but this might not be for you. Our time together is coming soon.
For the rest of you, it’s time for a thorough run through of everything you need to know to get the most of the “madness before the madness.” This is a time primarily for the leagues that don’t get the national spotlight, so focus in this guide is going to exclude the nine “major” (the “Power 5” leagues plus the Big East, AAC, Atlantic 10, and Mountain West) conferences.
Let’s get to it.
Complete conference tournament dates and locations
It’s the most logical, if not exciting, jumping off point. We’ll go ahead and include all conferences here because it’s March and in March rules are fluid.
There are a handful of format, location and scheduling changes this season. The most notable is that the Mountain West tournament — headlined by once-beaten San Diego State — will be played a week earlier than usual. The league will go back to its typical schedule, with the tournament championship game played on Selection Sunday Eve, in 2021. On the flip side, the MAAC tournament will be played a week later than usual, meaning the Saturday before Selection Sunday will still have its standard 14 conference championship games.
Here’s the full schedule:
American: March 12-15, Dickies Arena (Fort Worth, Texas)
ACC: March 10-14, Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, North Carolina)
America East: March 7, 10, 14, Campus sites
Atlantic 10: March 11-15, Barclays Center (Brooklyn)
Atlantic Sun: March 3, 5, 8, Campus sites
Big East: March 11-14, Madison Square Garden (New York)
Big Sky: March 11-14, CenturyLink Arena (Boise)
Big South: March 3, 5, 6, 8, Campus sites
Big 12: March 11-14, Sprint Center (Kansas City)
Big Ten: March 11-15, Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Big West: March 12-14, Honda Center (Anaheim)
Colonial: March 7-10, Entertainment and Sports Arena (Washington, DC)
Conference USA: March 11-14, Ford Center at The Star (Frisco, Texas)
Horizon League: March 3, 5, 9-10, Campus sites & Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis)
Ivy League: March 14-15, Lavietes Pavilion (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
MAAC: March 10-14, Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall (Atlantic City, New Jersey.)
MAC: March 9, 12-14, Campus sites & Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (Cleveland)
MEAC: March 10-14, Norfolk Scope Arena (Norfolk, Virginia)
Missouri Valley: March 5-8, Enterprise Center (St. Louis)
Mountain West: March 4-7, Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas)
Northeast: March 4, 7 , 10, Campus sites
Ohio Valley: March 4-7, Ford Center (Evansville, Indiana)
Pac-12: March 11-14, T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas)
Patriot: March 3, 5, 8, 11, Campus sites
SEC: March 11-15, Bridgestone Arena (Nashville)
Southern: March 6-9, U.S. Cellular Center (Asheville, North Carolina)
Southland: March 11-14, Leonard E. Merrell Center (Katy, Texas)
Summit: March 7-10, Denny Sanford Premier Center (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Sun Belt: March 7, 9, 11, 14-15, Campus sites and Smoothie King Center (New Orleans)
SWAC: March 10, 13-14, Campus sites and Bill Harris Arena (Birmingham)
WAC: March 12-14, Orleans Arena (Las Vegas)
West Coast: March 5-7, 9-10, Orleans Arena (Las Vegas)
If you’re looking for a more concise way to keep track of which tournaments are happening on what days and where you can watch the action, here’s a handy chart courtesy of @HeatCheckCBB.
Six Division-I teams are currently ineligible to participate in the NCAA tournament in 2020, two more than the number we saw a year ago. Only one of those squads — Detroit Mercy of the Horizon League — is ineligible because of subpar APR scores, the lowest total since the APR became a thing.
The most notable postseason exclusion is Merrimack, which won the Northeast Conference’s regular season title in its first season as a member of Division-I. Unfortunately, per (dumb) NCAA rules, the still transitioning Warriors will not be allowed to play in this week’s NEC tournament. Merrimack is also ineligible for both the NCAA tournament and the NIT, but can play in either the CBI or the CIT, which are both real postseason tournaments that actually exist.
Two other transitioning programs — North Alabama of the Atlantic Sun and Cal Baptist of the WAC — are also ineligible for the NCAA tournament and the NIT. Like Merrimack, Cal Baptist is ineligible from participating in its conference tournament, but North Alabama is eligible and will be the No. 5 seed in this week’s Atlantic Sun tournament. If the Lions win the tournament, the league’s automatic bid will go to the tournament runner-up.
Georgia Tech of the ACC was hit with a postseason ban for NCAA rules violations just before the start of the season. The Yellow Jackets had been appealing the decision and were eligible for the ACC tournament up until Monday, when the school announced that it was withdrawing its appeal.
Florida A&M of the MEAC is the only other team that won’t be participating in March Madness. The Rattlers are banned from the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
Here is the full list of teams that cannot dance this year:
Detroit Mercy (Horizon League)
Georgia Tech (ACC)
North Alabama (Atlantic Sun)
Cal Baptist (WAC)
Florida A&M (MEAC)