Eight months after the bubble burst on the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, officials believe they’ve come up with a sane idea to protect next year’s March Madness from the coronavirus epidemic. College sports’ ruling body announced on Monday they are in discussions with Indianapolis city officials to play all 67 games of the tournament in one area.
The NCAA canceled last year’s tournament because of coronavirus. Canceling 2021’s March Madness is something the NCAA is hesitant to do, so the plan to hold the entire tournament in Indianapolis seems like an interesting solution.
The 2021 Final Four was already slated to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. Now, the NCAA is planning on having the entire event in the Indianapolis area.
“The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event,” officials said in a statement. “NCAA staff are in preliminary talks with the State of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to potentially host the 68-team tournament around the metropolitan area during the coordinated dates in March and April.”
The tournament usually begins in the second week of March, kicking off with two play-in games. The first round begins two days later with 32 games scattered across several cities. The economic impact can reach $4-$5 million for a host city.
Can an NCAA Tournament Bubble Work?
Under the one area plan presented by the NCAA, cities around the country including Dayton, Boise, Dallas, Detroit, and Providence will no longer host 2021 games. Other cities that will lose March Madness games include Lexington, Raleigh, San Jose, Wichita, Denver, Minneapolis, Brooklyn, and Memphis.
Melvin Tennant, the CEO of Meet Minneapolis and executive board member for Minnesota Sports and Events told the Star Tribune he understands the decision.
“We’re certainly disappointed that we won’t be hosting that Midwest regional,” Tennant said. “But we understand that the safety and health of the student-athletes are first and foremost. We certainly applaud the NCAA for establishing that as a priority. We know that there have been a number of adjustments to events due to the pandemic and other issues, so I can’t say it was a huge surprise.”
NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told reporters he’s confident the NCAA’s plan will work.
“It will be a very controlled environment,” Gavitt said. “It’ll be different, it’ll be historic and it’ll be hopefully something we all treasure and experience just once, hopefully not ever again.”
Season Already in Peril
While the NCAA has a plan for the tournament, the regular season is already experiencing challenges. Several programs have already had athletes test positive for COVID-19. The Ivy League canceled all winter sports on Thursday, including basketball.
The start of the season is scheduled for Nov. 25, but Iona basketball coach Rick Pitino said he’d like to delay the start of the season and push March Madness back to May.
Save the Season. Move the start back. Play league schedule and have May Madness. Spiking and protocols make it impossible to play right now.
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) November 14, 2020
Logistically, trying to play in certain parts of the country is problematic and not practical. South Dakota demands a 14-day quarantine for athletes coming from schools in areas with high instances of COVID-19 infections.