The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship was first played in the spring of 1939. The championship, which is decided in a single elimination tournament format, was developed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was taken over by the NCAA the season following its induction. When the tournament was first implemented, there were only eight teams invited. Since then, the format has expanded to accommodate a 68-team tournament.
The Final Four refers to the last four teams remaining in the playoff tournament. These four teams are the champions of the four regional brackets, and are the only remaining teams on the tournament's final weekend. The origin of the term "Final Four" came as sportswriter Ed Chay coined the term in a 1975 article that appeared in the Official Collegiate Basketball Guide. He said Marquette "was one of the final four" in the 1974 tournament. The NCAA then trademarked the term several years later.
In the men's tournament, all teams are prohibited from playing tournament games on their home courts. On the third weekend of the tournament, traditionally a Saturday and Monday, the Final Four teams meet in semifinals on the first day and the championship on the second. For several years, the teams eliminated during the semifinals round competed in a consolation game. The consolation was discontinued in 1981.
The winner of the Final Four is allowed to cut down the basketball net after the game to commemorate their victory. Each teammate cuts a single strand, and the head coach follows last to cut the final strand and claim the net. In addition, the winning team receives the official NCAA trophy as well as the National Association of Basketball Coaches trophy, which is awarded at a later date.