NCAA Basketball
Tournament History



The NCAA basketball tournament history dates back to 1939, when the first tournament was held. Basketball was invented in 1881 and the first official game was played in 1882 in a YMCA gymnasium.

College basketball started in the 1920s. It continued to grow and became more popular in the 1930s. In 1938 the first National Invitational tournament (NIT) was established. In 1939 the NCAA organized its own tournament.

Until the 1950s the NIT was considered the more prestigious tournament. The NCAA continued to grow and increased the number of teams in the tournament several times.

1. From 1939 to 1950 only 8 teams participated.
2. From 1951 to 1974 up to 25 teams participated.
3. From 1975 to 1978 the tournament expanded to 32 teams and allowed more than one school from each conference to participate.
4. In 1979, 40 teams participated. The teams were seeded for the first time.
5. From 1980 to 1982 it expanded to 48 teams.
6. In 1983, 52 teams participated.
7. In 1984, 53 teams participated.
8. From 1985-2000, 64 teams participated.
9. From 2000 to present, 65 teams participate.


Today, the NCAA is one of the most watched tournaments of the year. The tournament's popularity continued to grow. In 1999 CBS Sports made an 11 year, $6 billion agreement for television, radio and marketing.

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