The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, last staged in 2019, will not span the nation during regional preliminary rounds leading to the Final Four this season, as in years past. The association, based in Indianapolis, is looking to consolidate the tournament for safety reasons during the COVID pandemic.
"The Division I Men's Basketball Committee has decided the NCAA Tournament should be held in a single geographic area," read a post on the association's March Madness Twitter account Monday morning. "As a result, NCAA staff are in preliminary talks with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to potentially host the 68-team tournament around the metropolitan area during the coordinated dates in March and April."
“We understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Kentucky’s athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, who leads the committee, according to The New York Times. “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 2020 men's and women’s tournaments were among the first major sporting events in the United States to be canceled as the coronavirus spread in March.
The committee said that while limiting travel, it was looking for a location that could offer enough courts as well as housing and medical resources, the Times reported. The Final Four was already scheduled for April 3 and 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the NCAA has its headquarters.
“The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “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.”
The committee is not currently conversing with representatives from other cities, said David Worlock, the NCAA’s press officer, but he noted that could change. Officials are not planning to hold the entire tournament to a single, highly restricted site.
“We can’t operate in a bubble like, for example, the NBA did this year with its postseason, though we will have similar protocols in place to protect the health and safety of those involved,” he said.
Discussions concerning the Division I women’s basketball tournament are still ongoing.