NCAA Announces the Entire 2021 Men’s Basketball Tourney Will Be Held in Indiana
After reports surfaced in mid-November the NCAA was in talks with local officials in Indianapolis for the city to host the entire 2021 Men's Basketball tournament, the college sports governing body made it official Monday (January 4th, 2021), announcing they had reached an agreement with the city and the state to do just that.
Taking a page from the NBA, the NCAA will do what they can to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 by creating somewhat of a "bubble," and hosting all games of the annual Men's Basketball Tournament in and around the city.
Unlike the NBA, who quarantined all players, coaches, and team personnel, and held all it's playoff games in one location, the ESPN Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, during the entire duration of the playoffs, the NCAA Tournament will host its games at the following six locations:
- Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis
- Banker's Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis
- Indiana Farmers Coliseum - Indianapolis
- Hinkle Fieldhouse - Butler University campus in Indianapolis
- Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall - IU campus in Bloomington
- Mackey Arena - Purdue University campus in West Lafayette
The statement goes on to say most of the teams will stay at hotels owned by Marriott, many of which are connected by skywalks to the Indiana Convention Center which will serve as the practice facility for all the teams involved.
The group also said they submitted a plan for medical protocols to the Marion County Health Department (the majority of Indianapolis is in Marion County), and that those plans have been approved. While full details of the protocols weren't shared in the statement, they did say all "players, coaching staffs, administrators and officials" will receive COVID-19 tests administered through a partnership with "a local health provider." They did not specify how frequently those individuals would be tested.
As for whether or not fans will be allowed to see their team play, the NCAA said they are working with officials in Indianapolis to determine "the feasibility of having fans attend games at any of the venues," but that a limited number of players and coaches families will be allowed to attend their team's games.
While they didn't say it explicitly in their announcement, it's believed the decision to hold the tournament in Indianapolis and the surrounding area is due to the fact the city, specifically Lucas Oil Stadium, were already scheduled to host the 2021 Final Four. The fact NCAA headquarters is also in Indianapolis probably didn't hurt either.
Now that a singular location has been set for the first time in the tournament's history, the question now becomes, what happens if a team scheduled to play in one of the games has a player or coach test positive for COVID just before or during the tournament? With the tournament being a "win or go home" format, will that team be forced to withdraw from the tournament, allowing their scheduled opponent to automatically advance to the next round? Considering basketball rosters consist of 15 players, 13 of which can be on the bench during a game, it would only take one player or coach to test positive for the entire team to be quarantined. I imagine the NCAA has thought of this scenario, and has a plan in place to address it if need be, but my guess is they're hoping they won't have to. Time will tell.