- The NCAA has announced that the entire 2021 Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament will be held in one location.
- The location hasn’t been announced yet though speculation centers on Indianapolis–the home town of the NCAA.
- The NCAA has dismissed the term ‘bubble’ preferring to call it a ‘controlled environment’.
The NCAA has announced that the entire 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament–colloquially known as ‘March Madness’–will be held in a single location to mitigate the risks caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The site of the event hasn’t been announced but everything suggests that it will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis is the home town of the NCAA and was already scheduled to host the Final Four from April 3 to April 5, 2021.
The decision will relocate the 13 previously announced preliminary round sites. The NCAA explained the decision in a statement:
In recent weeks, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has engaged in a thorough contingency planning process to determine the most effective way to conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship. Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment. The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.
The statement also indicated that the NCAA is in what they call ‘preliminary talks’ with the City of Indianapolis and State of Indiana to host the entire event around the area in March and April.
Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director, said that the move was a tough but necessary decision:
“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. 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.”
From the sound of it, the NCAA tournament will be held in a ‘bubble’ similar to what the NBA and NHL did to complete their playoffs. But don’t call it a ‘bubble’–the preferred NCAA term is ‘controlled environment’ which is presumably the same thing. Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball, said the organization has a plan:
“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.”
Mark Emmert, NCAA President, said essentially the same thing:
“The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans. 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.”
The *real* priority, of course, is to package up an attractive made for TV event to keep the NCAA’s financial benefactors CBS and Turner Sports happy. CBS Sports and Turner Sports will distribute all 67 games of the tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV and their digital platforms. More importantly, your favorite sportsbook will take action on all 67 games of the tournament along with futures wagers on the eventual winner. The field is wide open at this point with BetOnline.ag NCAA futures odds showing Gonzaga as a +900 favorite followed by Iowa (+1000), Villanova (+1000), Baylor (+1100) and Kentucky (+1200). Duke, Texas Tech and Virginia are all priced at +1800 with Illinois, Kansas, Michigan State and Tennessee all at +2000.