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No NBA All-Star Weekend, but Indy hosting the NCAA men's basketball tournament is much bigger
Six Indiana venues, four within six miles, will host the Div. I men's tournament.
The year 2021 was supposed to be something very special for Indianapolis, beginning with NBA All-Star weekend in February. That event was canceled in November due to the pandemic, which delayed the start of the 2020-21 season by several months.
However, Indy just landed something much, much bigger.
All eyes will be on the basketball state throughout March and early April, rather than just a long weekend. Not only will Indianapolis still host the men’s Final Four, they’re making history by hosting the entire tournament — all 68 teams — right here in our backyard.
“Indiana is synonymous with the word basketball, but today we embark on a journey that has never been done before,” said Quinn Buckner, a co-chair for the Indianapolis Final Four local organizing committee. “Today, we make history.”
The NCAA is headquartered in downtown Indy, right on the canal. And it decided that creating a bubble environment, very much like the NBA did at Disney, is the best way to pull this off.
Teams will stay at the downtown Marriott properties (JW Marriott, Marriott, The Westin), and they’ll each have dedicated floors and meeting rooms.
Indy, which is hosting the 82nd Div. I men’s basketball championship, isn’t the only city in the state getting involved. First-round games will also be held in Bloomington and West Lafayette.
On top of that, Evansville was selected to host the Div. II basketball championship and the Div. III championship will take place in Fort Wayne.
Selection Sunday is set for March 14. Here’s what else you need to know about the NCAA’s agreement with the city and local sites.
Where will the games be played?
Games will take place in six different venues. The first four sites (and team hotels) are located within six miles of each other. Mackey Arena and Assembly Hall will be used early on, and will require at least an hour drive the day of games for participating teams.
Lucas Oil Stadium
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indiana Farmers Coliseum
Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
The Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice site. There will be two courts set up at Lucas Oil Stadium, but only one game will be played at a time due to safety precautions.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse is available only because the NBA decided to release the first half of the schedule. The first 38 games run through March 4, just ahead of selection Sunday. Already, The Fieldhouse is scheduled to host the women’s Big Ten Tournament March 9-13.
The Final Four, tentatively scheduled for April 3 and 5, will still be held at Lucas Oil Stadium, according to a spokesperson. So no change there. (At least for now.)
All 67 games will be televised by CBS Sports and Turner Sports across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, as well as their digital platforms.
Which local schools are serving as hosts?
This is what makes Indiana special. It’s the NCAA’s tournament, but Indiana Sports Corp, city officials and numerous universities will play a big part in making sure this event runs smoothly.
Specifically, Ball State, Butler, Indiana, IUPUI and Purdue University are all serving as hosts, along with the Indianapolis-based Horizon League.
Can fans attend?
A decision has not been finalized. There’s no need for one two months before Selection Sunday. A lot could change for the better by then. *fingers crossed*
The NCAA does plan to provide a limited number of tickets for coaches, players and staff members of participating teams.
How will Indy benefit?
To put on this event requires multiple hotels, thousands of rooms, plenty of food catered in and significant on-site staff to host the events — from game officials to public address announcers, stats crew and all those required to televise the games.
The tournament needed 2,500 hotel rooms for 68 teams, officials and traveling personnel. There will surely be hundreds of media members who also descend on Indy to cover the games. They will all be spending money and creating work right now as conventions are on hold and downtown Indy has been unusually quiet because most continue to work from home.
Just imagine how many times the downtown skyline will be shown to millions watching on television and streaming online, and how many times the announcers will mention Indianapolis and the host sites.
The economic impact stands to be significant for the city and local businesses. And it will be much larger if fans are able to attend, even if capacity is limited.
“The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said.
We were all looking forward to Indy hosting an NBA All-Star game for the second time, but this will be much more memorable. And the All-Star game will eventually return, we just have to wait until 2024.
Indy’s Super Bowl in 2012 received strong praise from teams and national reporters and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here.
“Indy, quite literally, was made for this moment,” said Ryan Vaughn, the president of the Indiana Sports Corp.