The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. The decision shifted the focus to 2021's iteration and whether the games could actually take place. Now a plan is in the works to hold all of the matchups in one single location.
According to ESPN's Field Yates, one potential location for the upcoming tournament is Indianapolis. There are others being discussed by the committee, but Indy and the surrounding metro area currently sit as the favorite. This move now means that 13 sites around the country will not host any of the preliminary games. There are currently no details about whether fans will be able to attend the games.
"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," said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletic director, per ESPN. "With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. 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."
According to the announcement, the NCAA examined the possibility of sending teams across the country for several games and noticed significant issues. Specifically, there would be several logistical challenges, as well as the risk of spreading the coronavirus among the athletes. However, the organization also could not cancel the tournament for the second year in a row. Doing so in 2020 cost the NCAA $375 million.
"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," added 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."
Early in the pandemic, the NCAA sought out ways to hold the annual basketball tournament in a safe manner. The organization explored holding games without fans in attendance while allowing only essential people in the building. However, the NCAA ultimately canceled the men's and women's basketball tournaments as the pandemic became a larger issue.