Indianapolis in Talks with NCAA to Host Entire 2021 NCAA March Madness Tournament
The NCAA made a big announcement Monday regarding the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, saying it would be conducting the annual tournament in one location, and they were in discussions with the city of Indianapolis to be that location.
Normally, opening weekend of the tourney would begin in different cities around the country, with 16 teams surviving that weekend advancing to the Sweet Sixteen the following weekend which would require traveling to whatever city had been designated the host of that round and the Elite Eight. Finally, the four remaining teams from that weekend would have to travel yet again to the city hosting the Final Four and the championship game. Again, that's how it would happen if there weren't a raging global pandemic. But, as we know all too well, that's not the case this year, and trying to keep players, coaches, and support staff safe and healthy while travelling all over the country for three weeks would be logistical nightmare, not to mention practically impossible.
While Monday's statement from the NCAA didn't directly reference the NBA's success with their recent "bubble" during the playoffs, it certainly appears that experiment had some influence on the Association's decision to hold the entire tourney in one place. If you're not familiar with the NBA bubble, the league had all the teams who had qualified for the playoffs play those games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Not only that, each team's players, coaches, and other support staff lived on site through the duration of their playoff run. This allowed the NBA to greatly reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID-19, or any illness for that matter.
The decision to try and recreate that experiment in Indianapolis opposed to another large city is due to the fact that this year's Final Four and championship game was already scheduled to take place at Lucas Oil Stadium. The NCAA picks the locations for each tournament's Final Four years in advance, with locations already determined through the 2026 season when Lucas Oil will once again serve as host.
Monday's statement did not make any mention of whether or not fans will be allowed to attend any games of the tournament, however NCAA vice president of basketball. Dan Gavitt, told Mike Decourcy of The Sporting News he was "'hopeful' that some attendance will be allowed." You can read the rest of Decourcy's Q & A with Gavitt, which includes how Selection Sunday will work, as well as how the tournament's daily schedule may look, and more on The Sporting News website.
As a fan of the tournament, I'm thrilled to see the NCAA is working to make it happen in some way. It truly is one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. While I do feel sorry for those cities who will now miss out on what I assume to be a large amount of revenue hosting tournament games, as a born and raised Hoosier, the possibility of the entire tournament happening here in our home state is exciting to think about. We do love our basketball. So much so, Dr. James Naismith, the man who created the sport in Massachusetts in 1891 once said, "Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport" after coming here to watch the high school state tournament in the mid-1920's. If that's not a ringing endorsement for our love of the game, I don't know what is.
[Source: NCAA / The Sporting News / American Eagle Goals]