Due to the logistical problems presented by the shifting status of various regions and COVID status, the NCAA has decided to hold its NCAA men’s basketball tournament in one location for 2021. March Madness, which generates enormous revenue from both TV deals and ticket sales for the NCAA, was not held in 2020 due to the rapidly escalating pandemic, called off just before it was set to launch in March.
Indianapolis is reportedly in talks to serve as that single host location, according to ESPN. Lucas Oil Stadium was already planned as the host for the 2021 Men’s Final Four, planned for April 3 and 5, 2021. Should the entire event be moved to Indiana, that would mean some 13 regional and sub-regional sites as well as the First Four in Dayton, Ohio would lose out on their planned events.
“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 Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletic director, in the announcement. “With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”
NCAA men’s basketball is scheduled to begin its season later this month, though rising case levels have wreaked havoc on several teams’ practice schedules and scrambled the non-conference season. Many preseason tournaments have also concentrated their locations, with Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena set to host a “Bubbleville” slate of action in November and early December. It is believed that minimizing travel and location changes will help minimize the potential spread of COVID among players and school officials and give the best chances to allow for a full season to be played amid the pandemic.
“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,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
“The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA President. “The Board of Governors and my top priorities are to protect the health and well-being of college athletes while also maintaining their opportunity to compete at the highest level. These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience.”
No announcement has been made regarding the NCAA women’s basketball tournament or if it will also shift to a single-site model.
NCAA March Madness Impacted Sites
Venues impacted by the decision to hold the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in a single metro area are listed below. Listed in parenthesies are the next March Madness weekends scheduled to include that city.
First Four — Dayton, OH, March 16-17 (2022-2026 First Four)
First/Second Round —
- Boise, ID, March 18/20 (None Scheduled)
- Dallas, TX, March 18/20 (2024 South Regional)
- Detroit, MI, March 18/20 (2024 Midwest Regional)
- Providence, RI, March 18/20 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
- Lexington, KY, March 19/21 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
- Raleigh, NC, March 19/21 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
- San Jose, CA, March 19/21 (2026 West Regional)
- Wichita, KS, March 19/21 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
West Regional — Denver, CO, March 25/27 (2023, 2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
Midwest Regional — Minneapolis, MN, March 25/27 (None Scheduled)
East Regional — Brooklyn, NY, March 26/28 (2024 1st/2nd Rounds)
South Regional — Memphis, TN, March 26/28 (2024 1st/2nd Rounds)
Photo: Lucas Oil Stadium before a Colts home game. The stadium is likely to be the centerpiece of a single-city NCAA men’s basketball March Madness in 2021.