INDIANAPOLIS – While they are not planning a tight bubble like the NBA used, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is going to try to conduct the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in a somewhat controlled environment. The NCAA announced Monday that the entire 2021 men’s basketball championship will be played in the state of Indiana and that most of the 67 games that make up the tournament will take place in Indianapolis. Currently the NCAA plans to announce the tournament field with their Selection Show on March 14 and hold the Final Four on April 3 and 5.
Six sites will host games including; Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Pacers), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (IUPUI), Assembly Hall (Indiana University), Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler and Hoosiers) and Mackey Arena (Purdue). This years Final Four was already scheduled to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The announcement stating that the tournament will consist of 67 games indicates that the NCAA plans to invite 68 teams, which is the customary number. Obviously the state of the pandemic in late February and early March could dictate a change in the dates and the number of teams invited to participate.
The NCAA will work with a local health provider to administer COVID-19 tests for players, coaching staffs, and officials. All personnel involved in the tournament will be tested using a protocol approved by the Marion County Health Department. Most of the teams will stay at the Downtown Marriott and other Marriott properties on individual floors to limit contact. The downtown hotel is across the street from the Indiana Convention Center and is connected to the convention center by a skywalk providing a controlled environment. The convention center will be used as a practice facility.
No decision has been made about fan attendance during the tournament. Much of that will depend on the local situation. The NCAA will have to work with local health officials to determine the number of fans, if any, that will be allowed. It is currently expected that a limited number of family members for each team will be allowed to attend the games.
The vast majority of the money brought in by the tournament comes through the television contract. That contract is the biggest moneymaker for the organization making it imperative that the tournament takes place this season. CBS Sports and Turner Sports along with their affiliates will continue to broadcast the entire tournament.
The State of Indiana will also host the Division II and Division III Men’s Tournaments. The Division II Tournament will be held in Evansville and the Division III Tournament is scheduled for Fort Wayne. The women’s tournament is still up in the air. The Final Four is set to be played in San Antonio and the NCAA is considering using a similar plan for that event.
I think that it was a wise decision by the NCAA to play the entire tournament in one central location. Indianapolis has a long history of successfully hosting big sporting events. I went to the three Big Ten Championship Football games involving Michigan State and had a great time. Indianapolis knows how to “throw a party,“ and I am sure that they will do a great job even if it ends up being a “virtual party.” No matter what happens, it has to be better than last year.