Nov 17, 2020 - Sports

The NCAA eyes an Indianapolis bubble for March Madness

Illustration of a basketball in a bubble.  

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NCAA announced Monday that it will consolidate March Madness to a single city in 2021, likely Indianapolis.

Why it matters: The NCAA lost $375 million when it canceled March Madness this past spring, and with COVID-19 surging heading into the winter, utilizing a bubble could be the only way to successfully complete the event.

The state of play: The 13 cities originally slated to host preliminary round games will have to wait until 2022 or beyond to get another chance.

  • The cities missing out include Brooklyn; Dallas; Detroit; Denver; San Jose, California; Minneapolis; Memphis, Tennessee; Raleigh, North Carolina; Lexington, Kentucky; Wichita, Kansas; Dayton, Ohio; Boise, Idaho; Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Indianapolis was supposed to host the Final Four. Now, it could host the entire 68-team tournament.

Possible locations: Assuming each arena can handle four games per day (noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm), then even during the packed first round (16 games per day) they shouldn't need more than four arenas. Some options that could work:

  • Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Colts
  • Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler University
  • Indiana Farmers Coliseum, IUPUI
  • IUPUI Gymnasium, IUPUI

Worth noting: The NBA season will be in full swing, so the Pacers' home court, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, isn't an option. If more than four arenas are needed, smaller gyms — or ones outside the city center — could be in play.

The bottom line: The regular season could get thrown into disarray long before March arrives. But if it's completed as scheduled, a bubble awaits the 68 teams ready to go dancing.

What to watch: No word yet on the women's tournament. Their Final Four was scheduled to be held in San Antonio.

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