Jan 5, 2021 - Sports

What to know about the NCAA's March Madness bubble

NCAA trophy.
Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's official: The 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament will be held entirely in Indiana from late March to early April.

Why it matters: In terms of sheer size, the 68-team, 67-game hoops bonanza will be unlike anything we've seen during sports' pandemic era.

Venues: Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Pacers), Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler) and Indiana Farmers Coliseum (IUPUI) will host games in Indianapolis, while Mackey Arena (Purdue) and Assembly Hall (Indiana) will host games in nearby West Lafayette and Bloomington.

Housing: Marriott, an NCAA partner, will house teams on separate floors in hotels that are connected via skywalks to the Indiana Convention Center (where teams will practice) and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Protocols: The NCAA will work with health officials in Marion County to determine health and safety protocols, and to administer COVID-19 tests.

Attendance: A limited number of family members will be permitted at games. The NCAA will decide later on whether to allow other spectators.

Between the lines: While leagues like the NBA, NHL and WNBA successfully employed single-site tournaments this summer, college sports is an entirely different beast β€” and 68 teams is a logistical nightmare of the highest order.

  • The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, an eight-team league with powerhouses like Denver and North Dakota, offers a glimpse of what a bubbled March Madness could look like.
  • Dec. 1–21, the NCHC played in what it called a "pod" in Omaha, Nebraska. 38 games in three weeks.
  • The only places teams went were the arena, the hotel (where they had their own separate lounges) and a designated restaurant. Players were tested every game day.
  • The biggest challenge? Locker room space. "The equipment managers are probably going to be the heroes of this thing," NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton told ESPN.

More bubbles:

  • The women's tournament will also be played in a centralized location, likely San Antonio.
  • Indiana will also host the D-II and D-III men's championships in Evansville and Fort Wayne, respectively.
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