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After the timing of the coronavirus pandemic upended the NCAA tournament last season, the NCAA is taking steps to make sure it will be played in 2021.
The NCAA is moving its men’s basketball tournament from the usual multi-city format to a single-site location in an effort to safely conduct one of the greatest spectacles in sports, the organization said Monday.
“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 NCAA said. “The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.”
That locale will likely be Indianapolis, where the Final Four was scheduled to take place from April 3-5. The NCAA staff are in “preliminary talks” with Indiana and the city to host the tournament.
Limiting travel and providing a controlled environment will remain a priority for the planning committee, especially as COVID-19 infections reach record highs across the country. The decision to hold the tournament in one location is similar to how the NBA and NHL conducted their postseasons in “bubble” formats.
“The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “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.”
No decision has been made yet on whether the women’s basketball tournament, held concurrently as the men’s, will be adjusted to fit a similar format. That Final Four is scheduled to be played in San Antonio.
“The women’s basketball committee is continuing ongoing discussions with staff, broadcast partners and medical experts to determine next steps for the women’s basketball tournament,” said a statement from the NCAA. “The primary focus of these discussions is on the safety and well-being of the student-athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and anyone else who will be in our competition venues.”
Where the 2021 men’s tournament sites were scheduled:
Dayton, Ohio, March 16-17
Boise, Idaho, March 18/20
Dallas, March 18/20
Detroit, March 18/20
Providence, Rhode Island, March 18/20
Lexington, Kentucky, March 19/21
Raleigh, N.C., March 19/21
San Jose, California, March 19/21
Wichita, Kansas, March 19/21
West Regional — Denver, March 25/27
Midwest Regional — Minneapolis, March 25/27
East Regional — Brooklyn, March 26/28
South Regional — Memphis, Tennessee, March 26/28
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.