NCAA b-ball tourney field progression

I know it was 48 teams from '85 to '99(?) then became 65. but what was it before it became 48, and when did that happen?

From 1939 to 1951, district playoffs were held to determine who moved on to an 8-team tournament. The playoffs were not considered part of the tournament.

In 1951, the tournament was switched to a 16-team format. 10 conference champions (Big 8, Big 10, Border, Ivy, Missouri Valley, Mountain States, Pac-10, Southeastern, Southern, Southwest) qualified automatically.

In 1953, the field increased to 22 teams, and wavered between 22 and 25 until 1974. This was also the first year teams were limited to playing in ONE postseason tournament.

In 1975, the field increased to 32, and at-large bids for non-conference-champions came into existence.

In 1978, teams were first seeded.

In 1979, the field increased to 40 teams, and all the teams were seeded.

In 1980, the field increased to 48 teams- 24 automatic qualifiers and 24 at-large teams. Also, seeds 1-16 got automatic byes in the first round.

In 1983, the field increased to 52, with an opening round added that let 8 qualifying conferences compete for four positions in the bracket.

In 1984, another opening round game was added, raising the field to 53.

And, in 1985, the field expanded to 64, eliminating first-round byes.

–from this cool NCAA March Madness Handbook (pdf).

Well…that solves that.

yup lock it up!