The 1961 NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament involved 24 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAADivision Icollege basketball in the United States. It began on March 14, 1961, and ended with the championship game on March 25 in Kansas City, Missouri. A total of 28 games were played, including a third place game in each region and a national third place game.
The national third place game, won by Saint Joseph's over Utah by the score of 127–120 in four overtimes, tied the record for the longest game in NCAA Division I tournament history, set in 1956 in a first-round game between Canisius and North Carolina State. As of the regional finals of the 2009 tournament, no NCAA Division I tournament games since then have gone to a fourth overtime period. Saint Joseph's victory was later vacated because of the 1961 gambling scandal.
The Final Four would return to the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City for the record eighth time. Only one on-campus venue, Allen Fieldhouse, was used, along with two off-campus sites in Louisville and Houston. This would be the last tournament until 1986 where the majority of venues were not regular hosts of college teams. There were two new venues used in the 1961 tournament. For the first time, the tournament came to the city of Houston, with games played at Delmar Fieldhouse, then the home for the Houston Cougars. This would be the first of five venues in the city to host games, with a sixth, the Toyota Center, slated to host games in 2020. The West Regional and two quarterfinal games were held at the brand new Memorial Coliseum in Portland, the second time the city had hosted games. The Memorial Coliseum was one of two venues, along with Freedom Hall, to host three rounds of the tournament in 1961. This would be the only year to feature Delmar Fieldhouse, and the last of sixteen seasons in nineteen years that the old Madison Square Garden in New York City would host games. The city would return to the tournament in nine years, when Alumni Hall on the St. John's campus hosted first-round games. However, it would take until 2014 for the tournament to return to the third MSG's successor.