Indy or bust!
That could be the rallying cry for everyone who plays men's Division I college basketball this season now that the NCAA has announced it is in talks with city and state officials to host the entire 2021 NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.
Nothing is official yet — NCAA officials told reporters on Monday that preliminary discussions have taken place solely with Indianapolis but other cities are on the list if needed — but NCAA leaders have been eyeing the idea of creating a bubble-like environment for their signature postseason event for months.
If Indianapolis and gyms in surrounding areas do end up hosting the whole thing this season, that would replace 13 previously scheduled NCAA Tournament sites, including Wichita, for first- and second-round games in the Midwest region, for the upcoming tourney.
“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,” Chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, Mitch Barnhart said in a news release.
In addition to Wichita — a likely destination for Kansas in the opening rounds — Boise, Idaho, Dallas, Detroit, Lexington, Ky., Providence, R.I., Raleigh, N.C., and San Jose, Calif., also were slated to host first- and second-round games in 2021.
The four regional sites that would miss out were Denver (West), Minneapolis (Midwest), Brooklyn, N.Y. (East) and Memphis (South).
None of those 12 sites is scheduled to host their respective events until 2024 at the earliest, with more than half of them slated for a return in 2025 or 2026.
According to the announcement, the decision to pursue Indianapolis as a single NCAA Tournament site was made with safety as the top priority.
In addition to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which has hosted the Champions Classic and is home to the Indiana Pacers, and Lucas Oil Stadium, which was scheduled to host the 2021 Final Four in the first place, there are 10 Division I basketball programs with arenas in the state of Indiana.
Two of them (Butler and IUPUI) are in Indianapolis. Four more (Ball State, Indiana, Indiana State and Purdue) are within 75 miles of Indianapolis. And four others (Evansville, Notre Dame, Purdue-Fort Wayne and Valpo) sit 125-175 miles outside of Indianapolis.
The committee emphasized the importance of limiting travel and conducting the tournament in a safe and controlled environment.
“These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
Added Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball: “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. However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
The NCAA’s release said Monday that CBS Sports and Turner Sports will continue to distribute all 67 games of the tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV and their digital platforms.