March Madness may be held exclusively in the Hoosier State in 2021.
The NCAA announced Monday that preliminary talks are underway with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to host the entire 68-team NCAA Tournament in a bubble environment.
Indianapolis is “the optimal location” for the one-of-a-kind, isolated Big Dance, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said.
“Preliminary discussions have been solely with Indianapolis, but we do have other cities on a list to consider should it not materialize (with Indy) the way we hope it will,” Gavitt said.
The NCAA stated in a news release, “It became apparent to the (Division I men’s basketball) committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment. The committee has decided the championship should held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.”
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was already scheduled to host the men’s Final Four on April 3 and 5. The intention is to hold the entire tournament “around the metropolitan area,” although no specific sites, other than the Final Four location, were revealed.
In addition to downtown Indy’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, and Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, close-range facilities at Purdue and Indiana University could be in play. In addition, 11 of the 12 largest high school gymnasiums are in the state of Indiana.
The preliminary rounds were originally set to begin with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, followed by first- and second-round games in Boise (Idaho), Dallas, Detroit, Providence (R.I.), Lexington (Ky.), Raleigh (N.C.), San Jose (Calif.) and Wichita (Kan.). The regionals were to be played in Denver, Minneapolis, Brooklyn and Memphis.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I men’s basketball committee. .”.. We look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
The NCAA said it has studied the success of bubble environments in other sports at limiting the impact of COVID-19, presumably including the NBA, NHL, WNBA and MLB.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” Gavitt said. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
The 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
The 2021 women’s basketball tournament will be a “full field,” according to NCAA vice president of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman.
“The committee intends to maintain a field of 64 teams, and a variety of contingency plans — including reducing the number of first- and second-round sites or bringing the entire tournament to one location — are being considered in concert with staff, medical experts and other stakeholders,” Holzman said in a statement Monday.
–Field Level Media