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NCAA moves entire men's tourney to Indiana

By Jim Meehan
The Spokesman-Review/TNS

The entire NCAA men's basketball tournament will be held in Indiana with the majority of the 67 games expected to be played in Indianapolis, the NCAA announced Monday.

That sparks good and not-so-good memories for top-ranked Gonzaga, which is in prime position so far for a No. 1 seed. The Bulldogs defeated then-No. 11 West Virginia 87-82 on Dec. 2 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Three days later, the Gonzaga-Baylor showdown at the same venue was scrubbed about 80 minutes before tip-off after a GU player and staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The Zags spent roughly six days in Indianapolis last month, so they have some familiarity with the city and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA's Pacers and one of six venues expected to host tournament games. The others are two courts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Purdue University's Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Indiana University's Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

Only one game at a time will be played at  70,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL Colts. The Final Four was already scheduled there  on April 3 and  5, but the NCAA announced plans in mid-November to bring the entire tournament to one metro location in hopes of conducting the event as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 tournament was canceled last March in response to the pandemic, resulting in a $375 million revenue loss for 32 Division I conferences.

"The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event," said NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said. "With the direction of the men's basketball committee, we are making the most of the circumstances the global pandemic has presented.

"This is going to be complicated and difficult; there's no question about that. We appreciate the collaboration among the men's basketball committee and staff, our hosts and local organizers, the staffs at each practice and competition venue, and our broadcast and corporate partners. We will all pull together and stage a terrific national championship."

The NCAA is partnering with a local health provider to administer COVID-19 testing for players, coaching staffs, administrators and officials.

A limited number of family members of participating players will be permitted to attend their team's games. No decision has been made yet if tickets will be made available to the general public.

At this point, officials are still planning a 68-team field with Selection Sunday on March 14. CBS Sports and Turner Sports will broadcast all 67 games across TBS, CBS, TNT, truTV and their digital platforms.

Multiple courts at the Indiana Convention Center will be used for practices. Most teams will be housed at Marriott properties, with numerous hotels connected to the convention center via skywalks. Teams will have dedicated hotel floors with physical distancing at meeting and dining rooms. Teams will also be provided with secure transportation.

The tournament is expected to generate at least $100 million for Indianapolis, with 2,500 hotel rooms expected to be occupied by 68 teams, media and staff, according to the Indianapolis Star.

That figure could rise significantly if fans are permitted to attend.

Players from the Gonzaga Bulldogs react after defeating the Kansas Jayhawks during the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off at Suncoast Credit Union Arena on Nov. 26, 2020 in Fort Myers, Fla.