The NCAA announced Monday that it is scrapping plans for the 2021 men’s basketball tournament to be held at 13 different host locations across the country. Instead, March (or April or May) Madness will go the bubble approach and all 68 teams will head to one, centralized city, likely Indianapolis.
Indy was already set to host this season’s Final Four.
“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,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
The men’s basketball tournament has become nearly a billion dollar annual event for the NCAA, and accounts for about 85 percent of the organization’s revenue intake in any given year. With that being the case, it goes without saying that the NCAA is going to do whatever it takes to avoid going back-to-back years without a Big Dance.
As weird as this whole thing is going to be, this is a no-brainer decision. We’ve seen bubbles work multiple times at this point, and if you can just get all 68 teams to Indianapolis in good shape, you should be able to have a three week tournament that looks at least somewhat familiar to what we’re all used to seeing.
Credit where credit’s due: This is the right move by the NCAA, and getting out ahead of it now instead of in mid-February gives them the time needed to pull it off.
Now comes the harder part: Pulling off the four months and thousands of games that lie between now and the start of the tournament.