The NCAA tournament will look different in 2021—assuming it happens at all, of course. The NCAA announced Monday that it plans to consolidate the event in one location, and that is most likely to be Indianapolis, which is already set to host the Final Four.
Spreading the tournament around 13 different regional sites is part of the fun of this tournament, but that’s not a wise thing to do in the era of COVID-19. From the NCAA release:
In recent weeks, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has engaged in a thorough contingency planning process to determine the most effective way to conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship. Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment. The committee has decided the championship should be held in a single geographic area to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.
I think they can pull off a bubble of this size, it’s just the getting there that may be the problem, since everybody’s going to be traveling all over the place like normal during the regular season. With the country careening into yet another coronavirus spike, we’ve got a long winter ahead of us, and getting in a full basketball season will be tough.
Staging the tournament in one city is the right decision, of course, but it’s fair to wonder about the viability of everything that comes beforehand. (Or if any of this is even worth the trouble.) Here’s hoping for the best.