In a move anticipated since November, the NCAA on Monday formalized plans to host the entire men’s basketball tournament in the Indianapolis area in 2021. Details are to be announced, but here is what is currently known about the impact of the move, including the schedule for the event, venues, and health and safety protocols. ESPN reporters Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Myron Medcalf investigated the details of the announcement.
What is the dates for the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament? Do these match the planned dates?
As of now, the NCAA tournament is expected to announce the field on the originally scheduled date, and it is planned to have the Final Four on the originally scheduled dates. Nothing was found in between. There are questions about how long it will be for teams to travel to Indianapolis to be tested and quarantined before playing their first game. But selection Sunday is still planned for March 14th and the Final Four are still planned for April 3rd and 5th. That’s all we really know now. – Jeff Borzello
Has the NCAA signed a number of teams for the 2021 NCAA tournament?
There was no indication that the NCAA intends to reduce the field of 68 teams. And in Monday’s announcement, the NCAA referred specifically to 67 games – which means the tournament will continue to be played with 68 teams. – Borzello
The NCAA announced Monday that Indianapolis and the surrounding area will be the sole target for the tournament. What venues are likely to be used in and around Indy?
Six venues will host games. Lucas Oil Stadium has two seats, but only one game is played at a time. Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the NBA Indiana Pacers), Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (IUPUI), Mackey Arena (Purdue) and Assembly Hall (Indiana) are the other five venues for the Games. The Indiana Convention Center is used as a practice facility. – Borzello
When was the last time an NCAA tournament game was played at any of these on campus venues?
Games were held in the assembly hall in 1981. The Mackey Arena did so in 1980. – John Gasaway
Will this affect the selection criteria for the 2021 tournament when compared to previous NCAA tournaments?
The process leading up to Pick Sunday may look more “normal” than expected. The NCAA released their first 2020-21 NET rankings just before they announced the format for the 2021 NCAA tournament. With the notable exception of 1-1 Colgate (# 16), enough games have now been played for the ratings to look pretty solid: Gonzaga, Baylor, Tennessee, Illinois and Villanova make up the top 5. While there will likely be bites from the committee, that this is a “different” year, the overall bracket could look surprisingly similar to previous years. – Gasaway
Does the NCAA need to consider replacement teams in case an outbreak forces a team out of the event? How will it work?
On Monday, David Worlock, spokesman for the NCAA men’s tournament, said details of possible replacement teams and procedures for dealing with positive tests “are still under discussion”.
Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball at the NCAA, mentioned this as a possibility last summer but has not released any details related to the concept since then. What we do know is that the NCAA plans to leave Selection Sunday and Final Four on their originally scheduled dates. However, no procedural decisions have been announced if a player, staff, coach, official or anyone else receives a positive test. Will there be a loss? Will games be postponed? The latter seems difficult to envision as the NCAA appears to be committed to the current schedule.
Nothing official was announced in either case, but it seems logical that the selection of substitute teams is a good insurance plan for tournament officials, especially in the early rounds. For the basketball tournament, the first basketball event in the pandemic, the majority of the substitute teams were on standby before the event even started. – Myron Medcalf
What health and safety guidelines is the event likely to apply?
The Marion County Health Department approved the medical protocols shared by the NCAA. According to Monday’s announcement, the NCAA is working with a local health care provider to conduct COVID-19 tests for players, coaching staff, administrators and officials.
In terms of logistics, the NCAA’s partnership with Marriott Real Estate will play a role here. Marriott is expected to host most of the tournament teams. These properties are connected to the Indiana Convention Center (where the teams will train) via skywalks. The NCAA announced Monday that all teams will be accommodated on “dedicated hotel floors” and will travel from the hotel to the venues with “safe transportation”. – Borzello
What are the concerns about an event with a purpose?
Most of the coaches I’ve talked to about the NCAA tournament with one goal are just happy to have an NCAA tournament. The sport as a whole was devastated last year when it was canceled. It’s the biggest tournament in sport. And while traveling to different locations with arenas full of fans is obviously the more ideal option, this is the safer option. Everyone understands that the sport cannot afford to cancel a second NCAA tournament in a row – not just as a reward for the players, but given the billions in revenue the event will generate for the future health of the NCAA. – Borzello
Is there an expectation that fans will be able to go into the stands for one of these games?
No final decisions have been made for fans of non-family members. From Monday’s announcement: “The NCAA is closely monitoring the ongoing pandemic and will continue to work with local officials to determine if it is possible for fans to participate in games at any of the venues, although only a limited number of the student athletes’ family members every participating team is present and coaches are allowed to play their team’s games. “The NCAA makes most of its money on the television contract for the NCAA tournament. Therefore, making sure the tournament takes place is higher on the priority list than that of the participating fans. – Borzello
Is the NCAA women’s tournament expected to take the same approach as the men?
The NCAA announced in December that it would host the women’s NCAA tournament in talks with San Antonio. They still plan to play the tournament with 64 teams and in a similar timeframe to previous NCAA tournaments. Incarnated Word, Texas-San Antonio and the San Antonio Spurs would host the 2021 Final Four. – Borzello