The year of 2020 has been tumultuous, to say the least. For the first time in history, the NCAA March Madness Tournament was canceled in 2020. Every March, since 1939, the best Division I college basketball teams laced up their shoes for this heart-pounding tournament.
While many issues remain in 2021, the NCAA March Madness Tournament will go on with a few modifications. The NCAA decided to follow suit with other major sports and create a bubble in Indianapolis, Indiana. The NCAA’s formalized COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be in full effect to ensure a safe and enjoyable tournament.
Like many great sports tournaments and events, this year’s tournament is expected to generate up to $100 million for Indiana’s economy. Like cities throughout the country and even the world, rust belt Indianapolis has been hammered by COVID-19. The tournament will offer a much-needed boost to hotels, restaurants, and bars.
The Indiana Hoosiers, Butler Bulldogs, Purdue Boilermakers, and IUPUI Jaguars all have a front-row seat in this year’s tournament with games being played in their home courts. While not all will make the tournament, an exciting, up-close view of basketball in Indiana is coming our way.
The NCAA has drawn criticism from coaches, players, and the media for cramming the season in just to get to March Madness. Most notably from Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski for placing the undue risk on the coaches and players for economic gain. Regardless, the NCAA has made it to this point with countless superstar teams. It will look different but this tournament will be one for the ages.
Key March Madness Dates
Selection Sunday: March 14, 2021
The selection show will be aired on CBS beginning at 6 p.m. ET. In a crazy 2020-21 college basketball season, big names like Duke are likely out of the tournament. Look for teams, who do not often make the tournament, make a splash with a lower seed.
March Madness Tournament: March 18 – April 5, 2021
The tournament will kick off with the First Four on March 18th at 4 p.m. ET. The tournament will conclude on April 5th with the Final Four finishing out with the National Championship Game.
NCAA National Championship Game: April 5, 2021
The final game of March Madness will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. The game will air on CBS on Monday, April 5th at 9 p.m. ET.
Notable Changes for 2021
Location: College basketball, and especially the March Madness Tournament, is great largely due to its diversity of colleges and universities across the country. The usual format for the tournament highlights cities across America. The 2021 version of the tournament will see only one state, Indiana. To limit travel and COVID-19 exposure, all games from the Final Four to the National Championship will be played in the Hoosier state.
Venues: Previous tournaments embraced the beloved basketball fans who supported their team in venues across the country. This year, a majority of the 67 games will be played in Indianapolis. The rest will be played in West Lafayette and Bloomington, Indiana. See a complete list of the venues below.
Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Mackey Arena (West Lafayette), Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington)
Selection Process: Historically, the tournament factors in geography in their selection process. The breakdown of geography by region (East, West, South, and Midwest) has been nixed for the 2021 tournament. All said and done, this will likely cause more accurate seeding.
Stadium Capacity: All tournament games will allow 25% capacity. This decision was made with state and local health departments and has the support of local officials. While the noise will be subdued, it will be a welcome sign to see fans cheering on their teams.
Health and Safety Protocols: While unfortunate, the sports world has gotten good at hosting safe games in these troubling COVID-19 times. The NCAA is no different as they pulled off a pretty successful 2020-21 season. The NCAA finalized their health and safety protocols for the tournament which outlines testing, physical distancing, and contact tracing.
Practice Facility: The NCAA has set up a practice facility at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Teams will get dedicated, secure transportation to and from all games and facilities.
Team Hospitality: The NCAA will create a semi-controlled bubble. Each team will have a dedicated floor of a hotel adjacent to the Indiana Convention Center. All player will receive their own rooms on their respective floor. All dining rooms and meeting areas will allow for physical distance.
Future Final Four March Madness Sites
April 2/4, 2022 Tulane University, New Orleans
April 1/3, 2023 Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, and Houston Baptist University, Houston, TX
April 6/8, 2024 Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
April 5/7, 2025 University of Texas at San Antonio, TX – Alamodome
April 4/6, 2026 Horizon League, Indianapolis, IN