Fans looking forward to the Sweet 16 will have to wait a couple extra days in 2021; the NCAA Tournament has moved the third round of March Madness back from its usual Thursday start date.
As is the case with most scheduling changes, it has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
So no, you won’t be able to watch Villanova-Baylor or Oral Roberts-Arkansas on Thursday, nor can you watch Creighton-Gonzaga, Florida State-Michigan or Oregon-USC on Friday.
Here’s everything you need to know about the scheduling change, as well as a full TV slate for the Sweet 16 games. Until then, all you need is a little patience:
Is March Madness on tonight?
The NCAA Tournament will not play any games on either Thursday or Friday. In most seasons, the start of the Sweet 16 takes place on the former day and concludes on the latter. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a slight restructuring of the early rounds, starting with the First Four.
The four-game opening slate normally takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday following selection Sunday, with two games played on each day. The NCAA had to take extra precautions in 2021 to ensure not only that the teams playing would be fully healthy, but that a replacement could be produced in case a team dropped out.
For that reason, the NCAA set a 6 p.m. Tuesday deadline for teams to move into the tournament as a replacement. In a normal season, that would have been the day the First Four began. By putting those policies in place, the NCAA was forced to consolidate the entire First Four on Thursday — the traditional starting date of the first round.
The delayed start of Round 1 had a domino effect on the ensuing rounds, as well: Whereas the Sweet 16 would normally start a week after Round 1 — on Thursday — it was pushed back an extra two days, to Saturday. So too did the Elite Eight move back to Monday and Tuesday.
The Final Four and national championship game will retain their original dates of April 3 and 5, respectively.
NCAA Tournament schedule
Saturday, March 27
|Game 53: No. 12 Oregon State vs. No. 8 Loyola Chicago||2:40 p.m.||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 54: No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 1 Baylor||5:15 p.m.||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 55: No. 15 Oral Roberts vs. No. 3 Arkansas||7:25 p.m.||TBS|
|Game 56: No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Houston||9:55 p.m.||TBS|
Sunday, March 28
|Game 57: No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 1 Gonzaga||2:10 p.m.||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 58: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 1 Michigan||5 p.m.||CBS, fuboTV|
|Game 59: No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Alabama||7:15 p.m.||TBS|
|Game 60: No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 6 USC||9:45 p.m.||TBS|
Monday, March 29
Tuesday, March 30
|Game 63||7 p.m.||TBS|
|Game 64||9:45 p.m.||TBS|