The NCAA is relocating 13 sites around the country scheduled to host preliminary rounds of the 2021 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament to a single geographic area due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it announced on Nov. 16.
The governing body is in “preliminary talks” with Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to host the 68-team March Madness tournament during dates in March and April. Indianapolis was already set to host the Final Four from April 3-5.
Early-round matchups were previously set to take place in Idaho, Texas, Michigan, Rhode Island, Kentucky, North Carolina, California, Kansas, Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Tennessee.
The new plan is intended to limit travel and provide a safe and controlled environment for practice and game venues, medical resources, and lodging for teams and officials.
“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,” Division I Men’s Basketball Committee chair and University of Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “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.”
The 2020 Division I NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were among the first major sports event casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic when they were canceled on March 12, along with all other remaining winter and spring sports championships. Many men’s college basketball seasons came to a premature end during the conference tournament stage.
Teams were allowed to begin preseason practices for the 2020-21 season on Oct. 14, with the season expected to officially begin on Nov. 25 — pushed back from Nov. 10. No exhibition or scrimmages will be played this season, and the maximum number of contests per team has been reduced by four.
To meet sports sponsorship requirements and be considered for an NCAA championship selection this season, teams only have to play 13 games, half of the previous requirement.
“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,” NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”