History of the NCAA Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament

The NCAA basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, has been a staple of American sports culture since its inception in 1939. The Sweet 16 round of the tournament is the third round of play, and it marks the point at which the field is narrowed down to 16 teams.

The Sweet 16 round of the NCAA basketball tournament has undergone a number of changes and developments over the years. Here are some key moments in the history of the tournament’s Sweet 16:

  • In the early years of the tournament, the field was much smaller than it is today. From 1939 to 1950, the tournament featured only eight teams, so the Sweet 16 was actually the quarterfinals.
  • In 1951, the tournament expanded to 16 teams, and the Sweet 16 became the third round of play.
  • In 1956, the tournament was divided into four regions, each with its own Sweet 16. The winners of each region would then meet in the Final Four.
  • In 1975, the tournament expanded to 32 teams, and the Sweet 16 became the fourth round of play.
  • In 1985, the tournament expanded again, this time to 64 teams. The Sweet 16 remained the fourth round of play, but the field of teams was much larger.
  • In 2011, the tournament expanded once more, to its current size of 68 teams. The first round of play features four play-in games, so the Sweet 16 is now technically the fifth round of play.

Over the years, the Sweet 16 has produced many memorable moments in NCAA basketball history. Some of the most notable include:

  • In 1966, Texas Western (now UTEP) became the first team with an all-black starting lineup to win the NCAA championship. They defeated Kentucky in the championship game, which was played in College Park, Maryland.
  • In 1983, NC State, led by head coach Jim Valvano, pulled off a series of upsets to reach the Final Four. They then defeated Houston in the championship game on a last-second dunk by Lorenzo Charles.
  • In 1992, Duke and Kentucky played one of the most memorable games in NCAA history in the Elite Eight. The game featured several lead changes and clutch shots, and Duke won on a last-second turnaround jumper by Christian Laettner.
  • In 2018, Loyola-Chicago became the first No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four since 2011. The team, which was led by 98-year-old nun Sister Jean, captured the hearts of basketball fans across the country.