The bracket was expanded to 48 teams, which included 24 automatic qualifiers and 24 at-large teams. The top 16 seeds received byes to the second round. The committee eliminated restrictions on the number of at-large teams selected from one conference.
The committee’s primary objective in the bracketing process became to provide equal balance in the four geographical regions, and the committee began to assign teams to any of the four regions in order to achieve balance while, when feasible, attempting to keep teams in their areas of natural interest.
Principles for the seeding and placement of teams were implemented to develop a balanced tournament bracket. They included establishing 12 levels that transcended each of the four regions, dividing each region into three sections with four levels each, placing only one conference team in each regional, not assigning teams from a conference to meet before the regional championship and placing teams in their geographic area or on their home court if the first three principles were not compromised.
A computer ranking system, the Ratings Percentage Index, was used as an aid in evaluating teams in the preparation for making at-large selections.
It became policy that "no more than 50 percent of the tournament berths shall be filled by automatic qualifiers."
Virginia defeated Louisiana State in the last third-place game conducted at the Final Four.
For the first time, the NCAA registered a trademark for the term “Final Four,” with a stated first use of 1978.
The NCAA and CBS began a three-year television agreement for 16 exposures in the 1982, 1983 and 1984 tournaments.
The "selection show" was shown on live national television for the first time.
North Carolina's national championship win against Georgetown received a 21.6 rating and was the 11th-ranked prime time program for that week. CBS also achieved second-round record ratings with an 11.8 rating and 27 share on Saturday, and an 11.3 rating and 28 share on Sunday.
Host Communications and the CBS Radio Network co-produced the NCAA Radio Network.
An opening round was added that required the representatives of eight automatic qualifying conferences to compete for four positions in the 52-team tournament bracket. This concept permitted the committee to retain a 48-team bracket evenly balanced with 24 automatic qualifiers and at-large selections, yet award automatic qualification to each of the 28 conferences that received it the year before. The 16 top-seeded teams received byes to the second round of the tournament.
A scheduling format was established so the tournament would begin the third weekend in March, regional championships on the fourth Saturday and Sunday, and the national semifinals and championship the following Saturday and Monday.
North Carolina State's national championship victory over Houston attracted a then-record 18.6 million households to the CBS telecast. The game had a 22.3 rating (third best) and a 32 share. It was the fifth-ranked prime time television program for that week.
A national semifinal record also was set in Houston's victory over Louisville. The game had a 17.8 rating and 33 share, and it was viewed by 14,800,000 households on CBS.
It was determined that the Final Four competition venue must have a minimum of 17,000 seats.
One additional open-round game was established, requiring 10 automatic qualifying conferences to compete for five positions in the 53-team bracket that included 24 automatic qualifiers and 24 at-large selections.
For the first time, awards were presented to all teams participating in the championship.
The tournament bracket was expanded to include 64 teams, which eliminated all first-round byes.
The committee realigned each region and renamed the Mideast region the Southeast region. Specifically, the Southern Conference and MEAC were moved from the East to the Southeast region; the Big Ten, Mid-American and SWAC moved from the Southeast to the Midwest; the Metro and Trans America were moved from the Midwest to the Southeast and the Southland and SWC were moved from the Midwest to the West region.
The number of automatic qualifiers was capped at 30 for a five-year period (1986-90).
CBS had a record 19.8 million homes view Villanova's national championship victory over Georgetown. This game attracted a 23.2 rating (second best) and a 33 share. The game was the second-rated prime time program on television for that week.
The East regional championship game (Georgetown defeated Georgia Tech) set television records for that level of tournament competition with a 12.6 rating, a 32 share and 10.7 million homes tuned to CBS.
The NCAA Radio Network reached an all-time high radio audience for any sports event when the Villanova-Georgetown game attracted 21 million listeners.
CBS began a second three-year contract that included 19 exposures in the 1985, 1986 and 1987 tournaments; the agreement was signed November 21, 1983.
CBS televised 40 hours, 51 minutes of tournament programming.
The NCAA Radio network included a record 426 stations, including 92 of the top 100 markets.
The bracketing policy was changed so two teams from the same conference could not compete against each other prior to the regional semifinals.
The committee determined that regional competition would be played at neutral sites; if an institution serving as a regional host was selected to the tournament field, it would be bracketed in another region.
Three separate three-man officiating crews were assigned to the two national semifinals and championship games.
For the 1986 event in Dallas, the NCAA conducted its first random, computerized drawing for the general public’s allotment of Final Four tickets.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches reaffirmed its endorsement of the policy that permits an institution to participate on its home court in the first and second rounds of competition.
Policy was changed to prohibit teams from the same conference from competing against each other prior to regional championship game.
All 64 teams selected for the championship were subject to drug testing.
Initiating an agreement that was reached December 6, 1986, CBS began a third three-year contract. All regional semifinal games were televised in prime time.
Separate three-man officiating crews were assigned to all competition at regional and national championship sites.
The NCAA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship; the score in the Oklahoma-Kansas championship game was tied, 50-50, at halftime.
NCAA Executive Committee expanded a moratorium enacted in 1984 limiting the bracket to 30 automatic qualification conference champions and 34 at-large teams through the 1998 championship. (August 1988)
NCAA Executive Regulation 1-6-(b)-1 was amended to strengthen criteria governing automatic qualification for conferences. (August 1988)
A new bracket-rotation cycle was established. East vs. West, Midwest vs. Southeast in 1989; East vs. Midwest, Southeast vs. West in 1990; East vs. Southeast, West vs. Midwest in 1991.
It was agreed that neutral courts would be used in all rounds of the championship.
After determining that three of the next four Final Four host facilities should have a minimum capacity of 30,000, the committee selected Charlotte, Seattle, The Meadowlands and Indianapolis to host in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997.